I had my annual girls’ weekend this past month. It always seems like an indulgence for me to go (it is) and a bit of a hardship on my little family (it is) but every time I come home so refreshed, so renewed, so full, that we now think of it almost as a necessity. Few of us live near each other so we rely on social media and the phone for our daily connections but once a year, we gather at a lake to reconnect, tell stories, laugh until we weep and cry until we laugh. Female friendships are so dear to me – I can’t fathom going through my life without women alongside of me and ahead of me.

I was pretty worn out this year, I don’t mind admitting. I had a red-eye flight heading into the weekend, I was four months pregnant at the time, our life is still a bit too full for my liking, and so hello uninterrupted nap time, you’re a priority. When I woke up late on the Saturday, I wandered outside to sit on the porch overlooking the lake with my cuppa tea and I saw one of the most beautiful sights: women in bikinis.

We range in age from late twenties to late forties. We just look like regular women you’d see working at the bank or in the pews at church or handling school pick up. We have our own hang-ups about our bodies: one might complain about her size, another about her boobs, another about her thighs, another about how things have changed as she got older. A lot of us are mothers and that marks a body, you know.

But here they were out in public in bikinis, unashamed and having a great time.

I said it out loud, “I’m so thankful that I have friends who wear bikinis.”

There wasn’t any hiding behind oversized t-shirts or cover-ups. No posing on the dock or the sand with a perfectly bent arm on our hip to reduce arm-fat with an elevated smart phone for a filtered selfie. Just a group of women in the water, wearing bikinis like their bodies were nothing to be ashamed of. Imagine that.

I know that for some segments of the Church the thought of good-Christian-women-in-bikinis jumps your fence because of a lifetime spent labouring under strict modesty rules. Young women were often subjected to horrendous and humiliating practices about their clothing, even being told that their bodies are wrong or evil. Heaven help the young lady who dared to bring a two-piece bathing suit to youth group camp. Strict rules complete with diagrams and assumptions of motives, what started as likely a well-meaning experience to encourage modesty turned into a witch hunt and a theological confusion about responsibility.

Instead of treating women and girls as persons with full minds, hearts, souls AND bodies, they were treated as essentially physical stumbling blocks to men. And I think that dehumanizes women – in the minds of men and in their own souls. In a way, these modesty rules are a version of the tired and terrible questions asked about victims of rape: “What was she wearing?” meaning “Was she asking for it?” Answer: never.

(My other issue with the modesty rules stuff is that it paints men as unable to control their urges or bear responsibility for their own attractions and thought life – and that’s crap.)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a pretty modest person by natural style and inclination. I hope I’m teaching my tinies how to choose clothing well AND how to bear responsibility for their own thoughts and choices. But I don’t think you can determine some else’s motives or spiritual life simply by how tight her yoga pants are on a given day. A woman’s spiritual depth or intelligence – let alone her value – isn’t indicated by how high her neckline or low her hemline.

Regardless, growing up in a shame-based culture around one’s body is crippling and hard to release. It leaves one feeling disjointed and separated, unconnected and even ashamed about one’s body. It can take a lifetime to unlearn those lies.

But for me, it’s not the modesty culture stuff that makes me rejoice over the sight of normal women in bikinis.

No, as I wrote for Glennon Melton at Momastery a few months ago for her Sacred Scared series, my battle is much more mainstream: my weight. 

As I wrote for Glennon’s site, “I battle with resenting my own body and the way it has changed over the years.  I feel so achingly and painfully average, a stereotype, like the chubby misfit mama. And it’s so much worse when I am around other Christian women leaders because they are so well put together, so beautiful, so seemingly effortlessly thin, so motivated, and I want to hide.   I know better – I do!  But apparently sometimes I don’t. I know I’m overweight – trust me – but for me, it’s not really about the weight, it’s about how I am often awash in shame and self-loathing about it. Our culture tells me that I am only loveable or sexy if I look like a thin movie star, there is no room for my softness, and sometimes, God forgive me, I believe them. I elevate popular culture’s opinion of me over what I know about being fearfully and wonderfully made, over my husband’s love and desire for me, over my logic, over my own convictions, over my beliefs about who I am in Christ.  I’m still overcoming the lies and some days, let me be honest, some days I am not an overcomer.”

Like a lot of women, I think my battle started when I hit puberty. It turned out that my grown-up body was much more curvy and full – even at my thinnest – than what was in fashion or even what was considered “normal” within my family. I have been battling the feeling of “not enough” ever since then. I was very easily wounded by comments about my weight or size, carrying them and never forgetting the words.

I think that’s part of the reason why I write so often about body image – half the time, I’m preaching to myself. I need to hear the truth still. I need to have good boundaries about what I say about myself.

Overall, I consider myself remarkably healthy at this point in my life – both physically and emotionally – as it pertains to my relationship with my body. And I’m proud of this.

I have made my peace with my body and I even write love letters to my own body as a radical act of faith. I rebel against my own social conditioning about my body by choosing to not only accept myself, but celebrate my body.

But make no mistake: it’s been a hard-won freedom with occasional stumbles.

So I never thought I deserved a bikini. I thought those sorts of things were for thin women, for women without my breasts and my hips and my little pooch-y belly. I was meant for full-piece miracle suits and oversized cover-ups and quick dashes to the change rooms.

I thought bikinis had to earned. I never wore bikinis. Even in my teens and my twenties when I still had a belly unmarked by bearing children, I thought I wasn’t in the bikini class. The thought of wearing a bikini now was unthought by me. It never would have even entered my brain to choose a bikini.

Seeing my group of friends having a great time out on the lake – paddle boarding, laying out on floating rafts, swimming, jumping off the dock with abandon, unashamed – changed me.

Their hair was wet, there was no make-up, no self-consciousness. They were without shame about their bodies. It was stunning. I mean, yes, they were beautiful, absolutely. But it was stunning more because in our culture that constantly tells us that we aren’t enough or we’re too much, these women simply didn’t care and went out for a swim in a bikini. Each body was different from the other and yet each one was beautiful. Turns out you don’t earn a bikini by having a “bikini ready body” – you “earn” a bikini by putting one on your body as it is. Done.

I’m so thankful that I have friends who wear bikinis.

These women set me a bit more free with the glorious sight of their own freedom.

There is something about seeing women who walk in a freedom that we don’t yet enjoy that ignites us. I’ve had the same feeling when I saw women doing something I longed to do myself and hadn’t yet gathered the courage or conviction to step into.

When I see women enjoying a freedom that I can’t yet imagine, I think: I’m going to get there. I have a vision now for a new area of freedom and wholeness in my life. Whether it’s in my vocation and calling, my opinions and daily life, my priorities or whatever, I want to get there.

This is what I love about my friends. They challenge me simply by living their lives. I could tell you the dozens of ways I came home from our weekend together challenged.

And this seems like a silly one perhaps – women in bikinis, good gracious – but it was really a challenge about my body and how I view my body, about shame and freedom, about the goodness of our bodies before God, pushing back against my own prejudices and cultural conditionings.

It wasn’t really about the bikinis. Not really. (And we’re heading into the fall and winter so we’re past bikini season anyway. But wouldn’t it be awesome if more normal women in the middle of their years wore bikinis? I think so.) Really, my thankfulness was more about the presence of women in my life who extend to me a glimpse of wholeness and freedom.

There were other moments of challenge regarding calling and vocation, mothering and marriage, sex and Scripture, hospitality and theology, you name it over the course of our couple days together. All of those conversations arose in the context and safety of long friendship.

Far-away women on stage or writers from the pages of a book teaching me or preaching at me are great and I love that. I receive a lot of life from women of influence, I do. But I also need women in my real walking-around life teaching me with their own lives, living as testimonies to freedom and wholeness, as invitations for my own life.

Next year, I’ll be bringing a brand new little nursing baby with me – and hopefully a bikini.

 

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  • Adam Shields

    I am Glad there are others that get away to find time with friends. I’m headed to a guys trip this week (the 21st one, we have been doing them at least once a year since college.) they are a pain to schedule but so needed.

  • This is beautiful, lyrical even, and so very needed, Sarah.
    I’ll join you.

  • Great post Sarah…and a bikini is MUCH easier to nurse in than any miracle one piece out there!

  • I love these glimpses into how women friendships love us into growing. And for all of us it’s different: for me, even growing up as a pastor’s daughter I wore two pieces without thought – because so did my I have four kids pastor’s wife mama – she’s 62 now and still often does with grace. But still I’ve learned so many things about life and grace from my women friends and can relate to that at the heart of this.

  • This is great. Also, I hope fatkinis take off in the mainstream. I haven’t been able to buy one yet because they don’t have them in stores around here, and I’d rather try one on before I buy it online, but I really want one. And soon.

    • Jay

      I can’t believe there’s a thing that anyone has allowed to be called a ‘fatkini’!!! That is so unaffirming!
      However, I did a google image search, and I like them. They might take off if they were re-branded, perhaps?

      • Oh, no, you’ve got the wrong idea. Fat is not a bad word. It’s just a descriptive word. Fatkinis are for fat women–women like me! The name of the fatkini bathing suit is body-positive and well loved! I don’t think many stores are calling the “fatkinis” in their marketing or anything, but that’s the name that has been embraced by people on social media who support the idea of fat women wearing whatever they want on the beach or by the pool.

  • I love this and I love you. More than willing to hold that sweet baby while you’re in the water next year. xoxo

  • I hope you write even more about body image- I could use the constant reminders. And I definitely needed this one today.

  • Sandra Sands

    Sarah, thank you for today’s blog as I believe You wrote it just for Me.
    Yesterday, as I prepared my 51 year old self to go with my husband to an annual homecoming brunch at his Alma Mater, I was reminded by the reflection that stared back at me via a magnified mirror (a must at my age), that I my appearance is changing.
    Every day, we (women) are bombarded with images of women that are totally unattainable (unless we choose surgery to turn back time, from the neck up that is).
    Recently I attended an open house for one my husband’s female clients. She greeted us warmly but also with a set of tata’s painfully ( at lease it looked painful) pushed up and out front for everyone to see. I wondered if I should have whispered to her, in case she did not know, that her tata’s had escaped her shirt and everyone could see them. I quickly evaluated my own appearance, sans no make-up and no bra and quickly wondered if she is this is the measure of what I should look like; thus started the self loathing of my own frame and appearance, and quietly judging her (I have since asked for God’s forgiveness, as I want to embrace her definition of beauty she as for herself as well as my definition of beauty has given to me by my Heavenly Father).
    I am getting older, and this a good thing. My body has served me ,for the most part, well; however, I know that I will always have to make a conscience choice to embrace my ever changing body and not measure myself against anyone else.

  • Brandy Watson

    Lovely post! Spoke to my heart! What a needed message. Thanks. And by the by? The first time I saw you at the if:gathering? I thought ” wow! She’s as gorgeous on the outside as the in!”

  • I saw a beautiful scene on Oprah several years ago. There was a woman who dealt with shame about her body, and she had her run around the neighborhood in a sports bra and shorts, waving at her neighbors. At first, she was mortified. But as she ran, that humiliation turned to confidence. She felt like for the first time she wasn’t trying to hide who she was. She was putting herself out there, and feeling the people around her smile and wave in return. Baring some skin is what finally pulled her out of hiding. Several years later, I still remember how I felt watching her joy unfold. I want to have that kind of courage.

  • I wish this wasn’t profound, but it is. And it’s so beautifully said! Thank you.

  • Debra Sensenig

    Really??? Where are you getting your sense of value? Obviously from the world. I grew up with no TV and minimal media, and was taught to respect my body by covering it, and I don’t EVER remember struggling with body image, because I knew my value was not hinged on my body. (That pressure comes only from the world) Instead, I view the body as sacred, something to be veiled and guarded. I sure hope you teach your girls to see their bodies the same way instead of applauding their “shamelessness” for exposing their flesh.

    • David E Martin

      Debra, Remember that in God’s perfect world of Creation, “Shamelessness” was indeed represented by the exposure of the flesh… full nudity, in fact. And God has not changed… because He *cannot* change.

      When you read the account of the fall correctly, it is literally the “I-must-cover-my-body” attitude that was the clear evidence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Read Gen. 3:11).

      God never intended for us to interpret the human form *only* in terms of its sexual impact on anyone who sees it… yet that is precisely the perspective you are defending and promoting. I fear that it is you who is getting your values from the world rather than God’s word… not Sarah Bessey.

      David Martin
      http://mychainsaregone.org

      • Debra Sensenig

        We no longer live in a perfect world, David. Bikinis are a sex symbol. Period. Ask any straight guy. I am an artist, and I love beauty. Adam and Eve were shameless in their nakedness before sin was realized. The world is cursed ever since, and because of the perversion of what was good, God made garments for them to cover themselves. If you’re trying to say that nakedness is a good thing, there’s no point in discussing this any further.

        • Chasteberry

          Nakedness is a good thing, and bikinis are not a sex symbol. They are the ubiquitous swimwear for women in our culture. (I asked a straight man, by the way.)

          • Debra Sensenig

            I know there are scores of people who think nakedness is a FABULOUS thing, but I get my values from the Bible,( the same place I thought the writer gets hers) which associates nakedness with disgrace. Read in Isaiah 47:
            “O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones and grind flour, put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen”

          • Chasteberry

            “How beautiful are your feet in sandals,

            O noble daughter!
            Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
            the work of a master hand.
            2 Your navel is a rounded bowl
            that never lacks mixed wine.
            Your belly is a heap of wheat,
            encircled with lilies.
            3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
            twins of a gazelle.
            4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
            Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,
            by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
            Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
            which looks toward Damascus.
            5 Your head crowns you like Carmel,
            and your flowing locks are like purple;
            a king is held captive in the tresses.

            6 How beautiful and pleasant you are,
            O loved one, with all your delights![a]
            7 Your stature is like a palm tree,
            and your breasts are like its clusters.
            8 I say I will climb the palm tree
            and lay hold of its fruit.
            Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
            and the scent of your breath like apples,
            9 and your mouth[b] like the best wine.”

          • Debra Sensenig

            Context? This exchange is between two *married* people. Very important. 🙂

          • Chasteberry

            Really? Why is their entire relationship fantasy, rather than reality, then? Why do they lament the fact that they can’t go out together, and can’t kiss each other? There’s not really anything to suggest that they’re married, and there seems to be quite a lot indicating that they aren’t.

          • Debra Sensenig

            He calls her his bride.

          • Chasteberry

            also his sister.

          • Jason Stern

            Debra, the only thing disgraceful is when a person cherry picks passages of Scripture to fit a prudo-pornish viewpoint. You may want to live under the Curse, but Jesus died for those sins and brought us a New Covenant. The Curse has been broken.

          • Debra Sensenig

            We don’t have a choice whether or not to live under the curse. We all live in this fallen world. I sure hope this isn’t heaven!!! But we DO have a choice to be free from the law of sin! PTL! God bless you as you search the scriptures for yourself.

          • Nic Karisa Ryan Province

            Amen to the Curse has been broken. Modesty= letting noting on the outside distract from what is on the inside. When people look at us we should want them to see Christ. The only thing that is worthy of looking at in my life are the things of God. True Freedom doesn’t come from things of the world but from the LORD.

          • Debra Sensenig

            I’m curious where you get the idea the curse has been broken. I’m referring to the curse in the beginning of the land producing weeds, pain in childbirth, enmity between the serpent and woman, etc. You think we’re living in Eden? The curse will not be broken until Jesus returns. But he has made a way to escape…redemption!

          • Nic Karisa Ryan Province

            Galatians 6:14-16New International Version (NIV)

            14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.Romans 8 New International Version (NIV)

            Life Through the Spirit

            8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

            5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

            9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

            12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

            14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

            Present Suffering and Future Glory

            18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

            22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

            26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

            28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

            More Than Conquerors

            31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

            “For your sake we face death all day long;
            we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

            37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            I can get more examples from the Bible if you need.

          • Nic Karisa Ryan Province

            2 Corinthians 3:7-18New International Version (NIV)

            The Greater Glory of the New Covenant

            7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

            12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Awesome verses! We are no longer under the law of sin and death! We’re free! We eagerly await the redemption of our bodies, and creation itself will be liberated from the bondage of corruption! PTL!!!

          • Terry

            Thank you, Debra for your comments. It’s hard to believe we have to defend modesty among professed Christians! All I can say is this article is pathetic and you seem to be standing alone. I agree with everything you are saying. Isn’t there anyone else out there that feels the same way?

          • Debra Sensenig

            I’m slightly alarmed too that so few are willing to accept the fact that when you’re a Christian, you don’t have to go to Oprah to find confidence in your person. I’m not a big commenter, and this is unusual for me. Thanks for restoring my hope that there are God-fearing, men of integrity who can say no to the flesh so the spirit can LIVE!

          • Terry

            I don’t usually comment either, because I can’t seem to find the right words, but you are doing it fine. This is a little frustrating and very sad and confusing. Oh, and btw I am a female but my husband feels the same way. How someone can think it’s ok as a Christian to wear something that barely covers your private areas is beyond me. I understand the world thinking that way, but not Christians.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Sorry, I thought that may be the case after I posted it. Glad your husband regards female dignity by encouraging modesty. Mine does too. He was just shaking his head as he was reading these comments. And the church wonders how it can be that their divorce rates and such are higher than the world’s….sad.

          • tt

            Is it modest to be declaring so loudly and repetitively that you and your husband are holier than Sarah and anyone who agrees with her? Modesty is having a humble heart. Declaring yourself more right and holy than others is far from humility.

          • David E Martin

            You know what, Debra? I was raised in a conservative Christian Pastor’s home that believed and practiced exactly what you are defending. Yet, as a 13 year old young man, porn got it’s hooks into my heart. For over 30 years, I battled the ever-present allure, and no matter what I tried or how long I stayed away from it, I always fell back into it. This happened even while I myself was in Bible college and later full-time pastoral ministry myself. Believe me, I wanted to “say no to the flesh,” but I never could for very long. I prayed, I build roadblocks, I joined accountability groups. Nothing worked for long.

            But… when I finally looked at the Scriptures and realized that the perception of the body that you and I both were raised with was simply not found in the Bible, I rejected those beliefs. I replaced them with an understanding that our bodies are made in God’s image and that we literally *look like God* (that’s what the Hebrew words “tsalem” actually means), I recognized that is an honor that mankind alone possessed. I realized that the sexualized perception of the unclothed body was actually an insult to God.

            And when my mind was “renewed” by this understanding of truth from God’s word, then and only then was my life “transformed (Rom. 12:2). For the very first time in my life, porn no longer had its hooks in me. The allure vanished. I was made free. I had experienced Jesus’ promise that “when you know the truth, the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32).

            So for me, rejecting the pornographic understanding of the body taught by the church today–and it’s false “modesty” standard–was the key to a freedom that I had sought for over 30 years. Now, I finally AM a “man of integrity” (when I wasn’t before). Finally, I CAN say “no” to the flesh (when I couldn’t before). I am now more in tune with the Spirit of God than I ever have been in my life.

            David

          • David E Martin

            The truths that set me free are written about in this website: http://mychainsaregone.org

            I hope anyone struggling with porn will prayerfully read through the articles there.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            Praise the Lord, David!! This is so refreshing to hear! I’m glad you’re sharing your story! I’ve been on the same campaign–to want both sexes to view the other as a child of God, as a SOUL with value, but it makes it hard when women put themselves out there, selling themselves as objects–professing Christian women, mind you. I pray more men can find freedom as you have!

          • Debra Sensenig

            Thanks, David, I think this is key for the male responsibility. But the article concerns the female responsibility to find confidence in Christ rather than putting on/taking off clothes. PTL for revealing this to you!

          • David E Martin

            Terry… define dressing modestly… using the Bible.

            What exactly is supposed to be covered? When? At what age? Opposite gender, or any gender? How about exposing ourselves to doctors?

            I think you will have to admit that the Bible doesn’t tell us any of those things.

            So when you say it’s hard to believe we have to defend modesty, I say it’s hard to believe we have a definition and practice of modesty that is utterly and completely indefensible from the Scriptures. You’re welcome to try.

          • Nic Karisa Ryan Province

            Modesty means regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, and ect.
            Modesty=letting nothing on the outside distract from what is on the inside. 1 Peter 3:3-4New International Version (NIV)
            3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
            1 Timothy 2:9-10New International Version (NIV)
            9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

          • Terry

            Thank you Nic! You saved me some time. 1Timothy 2:9-10 says it all.

          • David E Martin

            Actually, Terry, 1 Tim. 2:9-10 does *not* “say it all.”

            Nic’s definition, though good, addressed only part of my question.

            I asked:

            * What exactly is supposed to be covered?
            * When?
            * At what age?
            * Opposite gender, or any gender?
            * How about exposing ourselves to doctors?

            As Nic’s definition points out, true “modesty” is not about how much of the body is covered… it is about the attitude of the heart. It is about comportment.

            And if you look closely at both of the passages he quoted, neither one answers the questions that I asked.

            In fact, both passages contain a distinct DE-emphasis on clothes. Both Peter and Paul tell women what not to wear. In other words, clothing is not required for true modesty to be expressed, but it definitely can be violated with clothing.

            Here’s my point… in the church today, we give lip-service to the correct definition as provided by Nic, but in practice, it’s all about how well a woman covers her skin. Yet, by biblical standards, a woman in shorts and tank top in church may very well be quite modest in heart and attitude, while the well-to-do women in fancy (and ultra-“modest”) dresses, salon hairstyles, and lots of bling are extremely immodest.

            The focus of some of the responses to this article has been about “too much skin” exposed. Yet that posture is completely and utterly indefensible from the pages of Scripture. Furthermore, the notion that clothing is intended by God to inhibit or control lust is not found anywhere in the Bible; that simply is not a biblical purpose for clothing!!

            So… on what basis can we assume that women wearing bikinis are being immodest? Do we know their hearts? Are they actually violating Paul’s or Peter’s instructions?

            The venerable C. S. Lewis addressed “modesty” in his book, Mere Christianity. He actually says this (Book 3, chapter 5-Sexual Morality):

            “A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest,” proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be
            equally chaste (or equally unchaste).” (http://web.archive.org/web/20140630055814/http://www.merelewis.com/CSL.mc.3-05.SexualMorality.htm )

            For the record, if you look up “vintage” pictures of women in the Pacific Islands from Lewis’ day, you’ll find that they often wore nothing more than grass skirts… and completely topless. Western attire has now invaded, so that is not so true now as it was when he wrote Mere Christianity.

            He goes on in the same paragraph to say:

            “I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it…”

            That is definitely not the attitude of the church today… and those who do promote the “fussy standard” as a “help” to chastity are not getting their position from the Bible.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            David, I dont’ know if you have any daughters, but do you have any standards at all for them? Would you let them out the door wearing…say…a miniskirt and bare midriff to church? We all desire to be so under grace that there is no reason for law, but the new testament is full of examples where Paul encourages the churches to conduct themselves in specific ways. I’m sure your household has rules.

          • David E Martin

            Debra,

            I have two daughters and two sons. I have taught them to make good decisions. Good decisions means “appropriate for the context.” I hope you would agree.

            But “good decisions” and moral absolutes are two different things. My problem is that we have created an entire list of man-made rules that we apply to our attire that God never gave us. This–in truth–was the error of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They really and truly wanted to live lives that pleased God… and they wanted to guide others to do the same. But the way they “ensured” compliance with God’s rules was to add a bunch of their own. Pretty soon, the measure of “pleasing God” was how well you kept the man-made rules.

            And all the “modesty-rules” people promote (including “no bikinis”) are just that… man-made rules. Col. 2:20-23 make it exquisitely clear that no man-made rules are worth a thing in promoting righteousness or restraining sin.

            Would I ever condemn a woman who showed up in church wearing exactly what you described? Never. I wouldn’t chase her away. I wouldn’t even ask her to cover up a little more. And I would viciously oppose any “well-meaning” Christian who tried to do any of those things. I would treat her with dignity and respect. I would not lust after her or even have a sexual thought about her. I would show her the love of Christ and teach her God’s Word.

            But I would NEVER tell her that God is displeased with her attire… that would be adding to God’s word something he never said. Our clothing does not commend us to God. Neither does our clothing condemn us before Him. Any other message we communicate to this woman is *not* the Gospel. It is not truth. Any “Christian” who treats her as if her clothing makes any such difference is not acting according to the truth of the Gospel. Period.

            And yes, we have a household rule… our rule is this:

            No one is to treat anyone’s body–including their own–as if it were a sexual object. No body parts are to be treated as sexualized body parts.

            Consequently, we have no rules at all about attire in our home. Literally… *none.* Within our own home, cultural assumptions and expectations do not apply. The result? My sons (20 & 13) do not sexualize woman’s bodies or consider the sight of skin to be a sexual event. My daughters (19 & 16) do not sexualize their own bodies and do not believe that they have to look “sexy” to be valued as a person. They all can see the dysfunction about the body expressed in our culture… and the church. And they are ALL *very thankful* that we’ve raised them as we have.

            Best rule change in our home we ever made.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            I like that. It’s a great ideal. So I like to see how it works out practically. So what would you say to your daughter if she came to the door as I described earlier?
            And would you let an inappropriately dressed girl (say, in a bikini or naked since that’s the topic) in your home to hang out with your sons without asking her to put something on? (I’m sorry, but I like practical application scenarios because it’s how we do life.) I haven’t gotten to that stage of life, and I’m curious how that works. thanks.
            Every other institution has practical rules, but the church doesn’t need guidelines/expectations?

          • David E Martin

            Because I’ve taught my daughters to make good decisions, the scenario you describe is not one that would happen with them. They don’t sexually objectify their own bodies, and as you know, there a lot of styles out there that exist for the sole purpose of putting a girls body on display for sexual enticement. Do I care if they show some cleavage? No. Do I let them wear bikinis? Yes… provided the social context is one that such attire would not raise a ruckus (like “conservative” church functions). But when we had a pool in our own back yard, or if we went to a public beach, no problem. Why? Because I’m not going to sexually objectify their bodies by getting all bothered about them showing some skin.

            If some other girl joined our family in swimming and they arrived in a bikini, I wouldn’t bat an eye and neither would my sons. They are not unaware of what a woman’s body looks like. It’s literally no big deal to see, so why should seeing a girl in a bikini be a big deal? No, I would not ask her to cover up, because I’m not going to sexually objectify her body by acting like the sight of her skin is a sexual event for me or my sons. The fact is that when we don’t treat body parts as sexual, we don’t feel like they have to be covered. And when we are matter-of-fact about those body parts, we cease having a sexual response to the sight of them.

            You ask about “practical rules” in the church… I have no problem with that. But I have a HUGE problem with the “practical rules” that have been put in place. The rules we have put in place assume:

            * Women’s bodies are a spiritual danger to men. *They are not.*
            * Men “automatically” respond to the sight of a woman with sexual arousal and lust. *They do not!* (it’s cultural conditioning).

            Practical rules? How about this:

            * Men are 100% responsible for treating women with respect at all times.
            * Women are 100% responsible for treating men with respect at all times.
            * Men are 100% responsible for their own thoughts/feelings/desires/actions.
            * Women are 100% responsible for their own thoughts/feelings/desires/actions.
            * No one–either gender–will make suggestive/sexual comments at any time.
            * No one–either gender–will demean or dishonor the bodies of *anyone* at any time for any reason.

            These are just as applicable on Sunday morning as they are the the Saturday afternoon youth group pool party. If these rules are followed, you literally do not have to worry about pool attire.

            In our churches today, Debra, we don’t hold men responsible for their mental or physical responses to women. We put that on the women. Is that right? And the really tragic “unintended consequence” of this faulty approach is that by putting any responsibility at all on the woman, *we are literally excusing (condoning!) the sinful responses of men!!*

            No, I’m not excusing a woman dressing and acting so as to sexually objectify her own body for the purpose of enticing sexual attention. Such a woman desperately needs to learn that her value as a woman is not found in the sexual impact she can have on men… but even if such a woman does come to my “pool party,” every man present is still 100% responsible for his every thought and action.

            It’s high time we stopped (completely!!) trying to manage the “exposure” of women’s bodies… as if their body parts are a threat to the spiritual health of men. It is high time that we taught men that *no amount of visible skin* EVER excuses an unrighteous thought or response in them.

            You said it was a “great ideal.” I agree. And our culture–and the church–are a LONG way from the ideal. But let’s not settle for anything less.

          • Debra Sensenig

            The fact that you changed my conditions to my question leads me to believe that yes, if a naked girl entered your home to hang out with your sons, you would ask her to cover up or usher her in another direction. I am pushing this issue, because it speaks to our ideals. I’m assuming you’re not a church leader. My husband and I have had so many conversations about the work of grace in the church. It takes faith to rest in the spirit! But you know in James, the Bible says that faith isn’t enough. “Show me your faith without works, and I’ll show you my faith BY my works.” I think it’s our duty to call others to righteous *practical* living. I really do love what you’re saying about each having 100% responsibility, and it’s true, but so many women are unaware how they are hurting themselves.
            Here’s an article one of my friends shared on facebook today…http://time.com/3444749/camille-paglia-the-modern-campus-cannot-comprehend-evil/
            Yes, let’s keep striving for that ideal, and I hope I can teach my sons to respect women the way you have.

          • David E Martin

            Debra,

            I’m not sure what “condition” I “changed” about your question, but let me go ahead and address it again, since you really wanted to know about the “naked girl” question.

            As you might imagine, families who are as open about their bodies as we are are not that common… since so many have drunk the kool-aid of the “modesty” teaching.

            So, there’s really two scenarios for your question that I would respond to quite differently…

            1. If some random girl showed up at my door naked and needy, I would most definitely invite her into my home and offer her clothing and anything else she might need such as food or water. If she was embarrassed and frightened, I would indeed ask my sons to leave the room until she’s comfortably dressed and ready to face the boys. But that would be entirely for her comfort, and not at all to “protect” my sons from seeing a naked girl.

            2. If a family friend who believes and practices openness in her own home comes to our home to visit (most likely arriving clothed) and wanted to walk from the guest room to the shower and back without wrapping up, or she felt like sitting in the hot tub au natural, or anything else we might do together in our home, then, no, I would not ask her to “cover up” just as I don’t ask my daughters or sons to cover up. Because we share the theological and philosophical belief that our bodies are not first-and-foremost “sexual” and a sexual experience to behold, then she would be free to follow our “rules” in our home.

            I am a church leader… I spent some 20 years in full-time worship ministry as a worship pastor. I now work in the secular workplace, but I’m still helping plant a church and I serve as one of the pastors for this church where I lead worship and share the preaching responsibilities.

            Now let me revisit the “men are visual” myth.

            Debra, I have come to believe that this is one of the biggest lies that we have come to believe in our culture. I believe this one lie has led to more bondage to pornography than probably any other. This lie, in fact, gives pornography something to sell… And it was the rejection of this lie in my own life that led to my freedom from the allure and hook of pornography in my own life. So, when I make this claim, I have to tell you that I am passionate about it.

            Let me ask you some questions related to this issue:

            If men are automatically sexually aroused by the sight of a naked woman,
            * How do doctors who work with naked women ever overcome it?
            * How do figure artists view naked models without arousal?
            * How to morticians prepare women’s bodies without it being a problem?
            * How do older men keep their focus on their wife rather than all the younger “sexier” women all around?
            * How do blind men get aroused?
            * How do missionaries to “naked” tribes avoid arousal?
            * How do indigenous men living in “naked” tribes not experience perpetual arousal?

            Do you see the inconsistency of that assumption? It simply does not pan out in all real life contexts. Let me go on…

            I came to this conclusion because I studied God’s word, trying to discern what God thought about our bodies and nudity (*before* we changed the rules in our home). When I read in Gen. 1 that God made us “in His image,” I dug into the meaning of the word “image” and concluded that one thing it had to mean was that our bodies are made to look like Him! I can’t fully explain that, but I can’t deny it either. This means that the human form–male and female–is designed by God to *reveal* God. That makes that reality the most significant observation we can make when viewing the unclad human form. The sight is intended by God ignite praise to our Creator, not sexual passions!

            But what has Satan turned that image of God into in our hearts and minds? He’s turned the viewing of the image of God into a sexual experience… one that has–we seem to believe–inescapable power to inflame sexual desire and lust in men.

            I submit to you that *this is NOT God’s will or design!* To be sure, whole generations of men have been conditioned to respond to the sight of a naked woman with sexual arousal, but it truly is only conditioning and not “innate.”

            Remember hearing about Pavlov’s dogs? Mr. Pavlov rang a bell right before feeding the dogs.. every time. So before long, the dogs associated the bell with food and they would begin to salivate at the sound of the bell. In like manner, in our culture today, the ONLY time a guy ever sees a naked woman is when he’s seeking sexual excitement (even if it’s righteously with his own wife!). This is the almost universal experience of all men in America. So guess what the sight of a naked woman means to all those guys? They’ve been conditioned to expect sexual excitement, and the immediately begin to “salivate” sexually at the sight.

            But there’s also a very powerful theological reason to reject the “Men are visual” myth…

            Since God created us in His image, He intends for us to reveal Him. As I already mentioned, our bodies are part of that “image,” but there’s more. God created mankind as male and female. God Himself is a plurality… which means that the three persons of the Godhead exist perpetually as a community of persons. So when God created mankind, part of the “image and likeness” was the fact that there is a plurality: male and female. At the same time, God is a unity, so God designed a way for the male and female to express unity… “one flesh.” This means that the sexual union of the husband and wife is part of their call to bear God’s image and likeness… physically uniting, a plurality expressed as a unity.

            Now… How are the members of the Godhead drawn together in unity? By *relationship.* So does it really make sense for God to create women to want to unite with a man because of her “relationship” with the man, but the man’s desire to unite with her is because he saw her naked body? No… That is a distortion of the image!

            So there are three reasons that I reject the “men are visual” lie…

            1. Rejecting that lie resulted in my personal freedom from porn.
            2. There’s no way to explain real life contexts where the “visual” simply does not have the predicted effect.
            3. And most importantly, it violates a core meaning of sexual union as one of the ways we actively bear God’s image.

            If you hope to teach your sons to respect women as I have described, I urge you to consider “changing the rules” about the body in your own home. Don’t let your boys grow up wondering what the female form looks like (If you don’t show them the truth, rest assured that porn is eager to step in and show them its lie). Don’t sexually objectify your body by never allowing them to see certain body parts. If you normalize the female form in their eyes and minds, they will not be tempted to seek it out in porn.

            When my wife and I were discussing our “rule change” in our home, I asked her, “Would you be willing to allow your sons to see your body if you knew that it would inoculate them against pornography?” She said, “yes.” And she has not regretted that decision.

            I hope you read all the articles at http://MyChainsAreGone.org, but this blog post deals especially with “Porn-proofing your kids.”
            http://mychainsaregone.org/porn-proof-your-children-part-1/

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            David, Thanks for answering my question–it helps me determine what you really believe.
            I believe the key to your freedom from porn was learning to see the heart and soul of a woman first and foremost. That’s wonderful. But I think the rest of your stance on this matter is a severe reaction to the environment in which you were raised. There is well-established, scientific evidence that men are generally visual, and because a small percentage of men have disciplined their minds to raplace those sexual thoughts with other thoughts, it still doesn’t make it safe for a young girl to walk around with 95% of her flesh bared. There are a host of evil men with evil intentions waiting for prey as this. And don’t try to convince me that men of integrity are a minority–THEY ALWAYS WILL BE.
            *******************************************************************
            I will protect my children and their dignity by training them to respect their bodies as the temple of God, something to be safe-guarded as the ark of the covenant was. I will never expose myself to my children, as doing so would be contradictory to this principle.
            *******************************************************************
            It’s OK for the body to retain its mystery. My children are welcome to watch me change the baby’s diaper and learn the male/female differences in our bodies, and I won’t freak out if they encounter nudity, but they will know that the body is sacred, and that nakedness extracts the mystery and beauty from it. This is the way I grew up, and I have a healthy enjoyment of intimacy with my husband, and see sex as sacred. I was as satisfied as a child can be about my sexuality. Curious, but never was drawn into porn. I want to give the same gift to my children.
            I respect your journey, but please evaluate whether your current beliefs are completely scriptural, or if the pendulum has swung too far to the other side of your upbringing.

          • David E Martin

            Thank, Debra. I really appreciate the respectful reply.

            Let me say a few things in response…

            There certainly are plenty of studies that reflect the “visual” thing with men. However, those studies are not questioning the “visual” assumption (Satan really doesn’t want us to know the truth), and since the conditioning is so strong, the response is literally visceral, so it seems as if that’s just the way men are. The problem is that it is so universally assumed that no one even questions it… yet when really examined, it does not hold true in all situations and all cultures. And if it does not hold true in all situations, then it must not be true at all!

            God did not make men that way, though… for he created mankind “naked and unashamed,” clearly part of the “very good” creation that included the beginnings of human society… whom He intended to continue living “naked and unashamed.” If men were created by God to be visual, then human society itself would have had a fatal flaw from the beginning. I can’t believe that to be true. And if “visual” came as part of the fall, then it literally is an expression of sin and *not* God’s design for men.

            An examination of Scripture will expose a complete lack of *any* laws where God tells men to not allow themselves to see any woman naked except their own wives. How can this be?? If God has given us all we need for life and godliness, how can such an important interpersonal/societal piece of instruction be missing in the sacred text??

            And exactly what parts of a woman’s body actually incite the “sexual arousal” response? Is it the breasts? Why would that be? Breasts aren’t sexual, they are maternal. Is it the buttocks? How could that be… they’re essentially no different than men. Is it the vulva? For a standing woman, the vulva isn’t even visible. Is it the overall curvy-ness? If that is so, then we need to obscure the curves entirely… and one-piece bathing suits completely fail to hide the curves… and the most beautiful (and “modest”) dresses women wear *always* capitalize on the beauty of a woman’s form to show their beauty.

            Is it the beauty of a woman’s face? Without any doubt, the MOST beautiful feature of a woman’s body is her face!! So… while breasts and hips and curves surely are beautiful, they still pale in comparison to a woman’s countenance. So, why don’t we cover a woman’s face? The fundamentalist Muslims do… how do we know that they don’t have it right? If the Bible doesn’t tell us to cover a woman’s breasts, how are we to know that we don’t need to cover faces? Muslims *sexually objectify* women’s faces. That’s why they cover them. And guess what… when a Muslim man sees a woman’s face, it incites sexual arousal in him! Think about the significance of that fact.

            I once went on a trip to India with a ministry team. While there, one of the ladies in our group was requested to make sure she kept her ankles covered. Why? Because men there would be distracted by the sight of her ankles! They have a sexual response to the sight of ankles!! Why? Because they sexually objectify women’s ankles! So… they require them to be covered for “sexual” reasons. Oddly enough, women there often wear outfits that leave their bellies exposed! (evidently, bellies are *not* sexually objectified).

            Here’s the point… whatever we require to be covered for “sexual reasons,” that is the body part we are sexually objectifying.

            You talk about allowing the body to “retain its mystery” (meaning, I assume, that they never see an adult body unclothed until marriage). Can you find any basis in God’s word to do that? Does God *ever* tell us to never allow our sons to see their moms’ or sisters’ bodies or daughters their fathers’ and brothers’? Yet, despite the fact that these instructions are utterly missing in God’s Word, we in the Western church today have determined that “God just forgot to mention that” and pretend that we are still sure that it’s His will for us.

            Trust me, Debra, this is not a pendulum swing for me. I had a great, happy, healthy, and loving home growing up. And I was faithfully raising my children the same way. But when I subjected what I had always thought to the scrutiny of God’s word, I found out that I was complete unable to find ANY evidence to support the position about the body I had been raised with. At first, I was so surprised that it was not immediately evident that I had to do a deep dive study on what God thinks about our bodies and nudity. It was during that study that–for the first time in my life–I brought my thinking and living in alignment to God’s truth about our bodies (honestly, I was a bit surprised that my own porn struggles evaporated in the process).

            So, I challenge you with what you challenged me… evaluate with whether your current beliefs are completely scriptural.

            Not to put “beliefs” in your mouth, but I think of the following as typical beliefs that most everyone believes to be scriptural, but I found to be indefensible from the Scriptures:

            * Men are visually aroused.
            * God commands clothing for all people
            * Women must keep their breasts hidden from the eyes of men other than their husband.
            * The first naked woman a man ever sees should be his own wife.
            * Children can see parents or siblings naked until age ___ (pick a number).
            * Men can change diapers and help dress their daughters until they are ___ years old.
            * Women can change diapers and help dress their sons until they are ___ years old.
            * Men and women should be segregated when bathing (remember, everyone bathed outdoors when the Bible was written).
            * It’s OK for a male doctor/nurse to see adult women naked.
            * It’s OK for a female doctor/nurse to see adult men naked.
            * Avoiding the sight of a female nakedness will help a man avoid lust.

            That last point is THE central belief of just about every strategy against porn that I’ve ever heard. Yet, it is completely without support in the Scriptures. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ clear declaration that “there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” If a man expresses lust at the sight of a woman’s body, that sight *did NOT* create that response. He already had lust in him.

            This means that the PRIMARY strategy the church teaches to men to overcome porn and lust is actually contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

            Do you see what I mean? I did not “over-react” and reject the teaching I was raised with. I subjected it to Scripture and discovered that I had to reject it because *it simply was not biblical!*

            The reason this is so important to address in our lives, homes, churches, and society is that we are trusting man-made rules to produce the righteousness of God in our lives.

            Col. 2:20-23 tells us the folly of such expectations:

            “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

            Man-made rules about “modesty” and “covering up” and even “mystery of the body” do have the *appearance of wisdom,” but Paul is telling us to actively reject such rules… because they “are of NO VALUE against fleshly indulgence.”

            THAT is why I abandoned the body/modesty/clothing rules I was raised with and used to believe in. The scriptures literally command me to do so. Those are man-made rules. They are utterly useless in the pursuit of true godly living.

            And the testimony of my life and my family is this: we are MUCH better off for it.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            You speak as if the fall never happened. Yes, god DID create man naked and unashamed, and it was GLORIOUS! That is, until the serpent visits, and sin enters
            and only then do they realize they are naked, so they try to cover themselves, but it’s not acceptable to God, so He gives them proper clothing as he sends them out of the land of perfection with a curse that has been present ever since. We live in a perverse, fallen world–there’s no denying it. So we can’t live with these heady, lofty ideals as if we’re living in Eden. Why have any laws at all if we’re so pure? So you would have no qualms about living in a nudist colony? Are we so strong and above sin? Paul is honest with the struggle that his flesh wants to do what the spirit does not, and vice versa.
            I think all this boils down to the question, “what is happening in the human heart when nakedness is seen?” Did Bathsheba place herself in a position where she could be seen bathing? Did David go to the rooftop for the purpose of lusting after her? Or was it “chance” that created the occasion for sin? David was a man after God’s own heart, but this opportunity lead to adultery. What’s going through a woman’s mind when she picks out a string bikini to wear in public? It’s hard for me to believe she’s not thinking of her male counterparts. I know my own temptation to lord my female prowess over males to work my magic and get what I want–it’s easy power. And it’s God who reminds me that road leads to regret. I choose to honor my God-fearing husband and other men in my life and not hinder their pursuit of holiness.

          • David E Martin

            Debra, there are very sound biblical answers to all of your objections here, but I’m not going to go through them point by point (if you want that response on any particular point, just ask specifically).

            I challenge you again to look through that list of bullet points I posted before… can you find biblical basis for any of them? I could not. That’s why I rejected that perspective. It seems to me that instead of really asking yourself if those things are in the bible or not, you are still just reiterating the same perspective you’ve always heard and believed.

            You keep talking about all the perversity in the world… but I’m trying to say that it is the sexualized view of the body that IS the perversion! Considering certain body parts as primarily “sexual” is itself a *pornographic* perspective. Just because Christians and the church have embraced the belief and promoted it does not make it any less perverse

            Consider this… the porn industry and the church believe the very same thing about the meaning of the exposed human form… it is fundamentally a sexual experience to behold. The church therefore spurns it while porn flaunts it, but the core belief about the body is the same.

            Yet the Bible teaches that it is a *theological* experience to behold! It is God’s image on display!

            Consequently, we can never overcome the power of a pornographic society if the church does not counter the core belief about the body that porn embraces, promotes, and profits from!

            We cannot afford to use the excuse that our world is perverse to just submit to the world’s perspective on the meaning of the human body. We–the church–MUST align ourselves with the truth… and seek God’s wisdom for how to impact the world with that truth. The fact that you can’t imagine now what that would look like cannot be reason enough to give in and perpetuate the false view of the body. We dare not embrace a lie for any reason. That’s why we so desperately need God’s wisdom to live by the truth. It will not be easy… especially since so many Christians count it a mark of spiritual maturity to submit to the false “modesty” standards.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            Yes, I did look at your list, and I too do not agree with every point. It feels like a trick question because each point makes either a sweeping blanket statement or is so pointedly specific. I agree in part, but not to the extent. The Bible itself makes many general statements that are not necessarily true in every case, esp in the Psalms. I’m curious though where scripturally you get the idea doctors should not see the opposite sex.
            When I talk about the perversity of the world, I’m talking about our culture being unsafe to send our daughters out over-exposed. I get what you’re saying, David, and I want to be relaxed about my children’s understanding of our bodies. But if you’re suggesting that we can cure our sex-crazed culture by exposing the body to somehow make us immune to its sex-appeal, I don’t think that’s the answer. Look at examples in history where nakedness was rampant, and you’ll see a corresponding level of moral decay. Look at Haiti where there’s no regard for the sacred and witchcraft is the norm. The fall of Rome. The culture will never be cured from the lure of sexual gratification by undressing. Victory only comes from the supernatural power of God to live above the flesh. I don’t want the body to become so commonplace that my husband thinks I’m just another body in the bedroom. I want him to be dazzled by the female body and enjoy it in the bounds of our marriage! Yes!

          • David E Martin

            It’s good to hear that you don’t agree with all the “beliefs” that I listed.

            What I was trying to point out is that in the church today, we have adopted a lot of “standards” for behavior as it relates to human nudity which cannot be defended from the scriptures. And it is *always* a mistake to establish and follow man-made rules in the pursuit of righteousness.

            Regarding doctors, I do not believe that the Bible says that doctors cannot see the opposite sex. What I was pointing out was the fact that not only is there no instructions that only a husband should see his wife and vice versa (generally believed to be a moral absolute), there’s also no provision for the “exception” for medical contexts that most Christians are also ok with.

            As you’ve seen, I do advocate for openness with our bodies, Debra, but that does not mean that I’m advocating for unwise decisions in how we interact with the culture. But it does start at home. And yes, we do have to find ways to push against the culture’s perverse view of our bodies. And absolutely, we should not be deriding women who are willing to go swimming in bikinis if they deem that the context is acceptable for that sort of swimming attire.

            I’m not suggesting that indiscriminate “exposure” will cure our culture… I’m saying that careful and intentional non-sexual exposure will cure me, you, my sons, and your sons, my daughters, and your daughters.

            You are making a lot of assumptions about the role of openness to nudity and sexual promiscuity… those assumptions are not true. I’ve examined those ideas and here are some of the facts I’ve uncovered:

            * Many European countries are very open about their bodies. They are also much more secular (non-Christian) than the USA. They are also very open to premarital sex. Yet, their rates of porn use is lower than than that of the USA. The rates of teen promiscuity are lower than the USA. And the average age of first sexual experience for teens is notably higher than the USA. This is particularly notable in the Netherlands. Unexpected statistics given the anticipation that exposure to nudity would incite more promiscuity and the fact that the USA is much more committed to Christian sexual moral standards, wouldn’t you say?

            * The countries where the highest levels of “modesty” are the law of the land are literally the highest consumers of porn on the planet! Of the top ten nations, 5 of them are Muslim. This is too important of a point to not cite my source: http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Muslim_Statistics_-_Pornography

            You see what I mean? The avoidance of body exposure actually has a reverse impact on the levels of lust and impurity exhibited in these countries.

            I agree that the supernatural power of the Spirit of God is required to live a life above the flesh, but not even the Spirit of God will release someone from bondage to sin if that bondage is the empowered by a lie that a person refuses to allow the Lord to eradicate from their life. Believe my, Debra, I deeply desired to be free of porn for all those years that I was serving in pastoral ministry. I sought the Lord’s intervention in my life. I confessed my sin to others. I prayed. But I never did gain freedom in my life until I rejected the “men are visual” myth and the false beliefs we in our culture and the church hold about the sexual impact of the unclad human form. Once that lie was rooted out of my life, my freedom was pretty much instantaneous.

            And about your body and your husband… please take my word on this, too… your husband will *never* tire of seeing your body. And he will never treat your body as “just another body”… because you are his *wife*! But please also recognize that if you are depending on your female body to ignite your husband’s sexual interest for the rest of your married life, you are destined to reach a point of fear that the younger and more beautiful women in your husband’s life. But if you help your husband reach the point that his only ignition point for sexual excitement and desire is your relationship with him, then you have nothing to worry about for the rest of your life.

            David

          • Debra Sensenig

            How do you determine “indiscriminate exposure?” Not all people have discernment as you do.
            As far as the statistics…you have to give it many years to catch up. There’s no way to tell whether current statistics are accurate because of the nature of this subject. In the last decade, America has decayed morally in leaps and bounds, yet people still want to call themselves Christian. There is absolutely no difference in most American Christians from the world in regard to divorce rates, the shows they watch, what they spend their money on. And those statistics CAN be measured. The secrets of the heart and hidden sins will go before a complete denial of one’s faith.
            So America may be the most Christian nation–BUT ONLY NOMINALLY. China is fast becoming the most Christian nation, and since its mostly first generation, under persecution, I believe it’s for real! Give it a few years….I’m curious how China rates in porn consumption.
            I’m researching porn use statistics, and it’s sickening to think of the damage that’s being done. The root of it all is SELF, self-gratification without regard to how it destroys lives. Everyone knows the damage it does, but they’re slaves to their insatiable desires. The only cure is a heart transformed and renewed by the blood of Christ by giving up on the notion we can depend on ourselves to change!
            I will now rest my case. I feel like I’ve said what I want to say. Thanks for your time. I feel I’ve benefited from our dialog and I hope you have as well. God bless the rest of your journey!

          • Jeanne

            Very well said Debra! I agree with you 100%. God bless you for standing for the truth!

          • Char

            Thank you for this. I’ve studied art, anatomy, and massage/sport therapy. It’s been a long time since I’ve believed that the human body is truly fearfully and wonderfully made and a thing of beauty in the same way much of God’s creation is. I don’t look at a sunset or a landscape and become aroused, I see the Creator’s hand making master pieces. It’s the same when I see a naked body. It’s a belief I can’t share with my christian friends without being “corrected” or scoffed at. I’m told I should feel ashamed and awkward. I don’t find this in the Bible though. It would also make it very hard to deal with clients. In fact, I’ve known Christians who would rather live in physical pain than be “immodest”. What you’ve written speaks the things I couldn’t find the words to explain to them. There’s hope. Thank you.

          • David E Martin

            Thanks for your comments, Char.

            Without any doubt, the way the church today views the unadorned human form is quite caustic and destructive. Defining the sight of the human form only in terms of its sexual impact is not biblical, nor is it healthy. Yet that is precisely what the strict “modesty” rules do.

            It is ironic that in the church today, many of the rules and guidelines given us in support of sexual purity are actually sexually objectifying the human form, particularly the form of women.

            David

          • LisaisLisa

            David, I am waving my hanky over here in solidarity. THANK YOU for these words and for your example to your children, their friends, and your community. They are a balm to women who have been hurt by purity culture.

          • As a straight man, I agree with you. Bikinis are not sex symbols. They can be, but they are not necessarily.

            I think Debra is mistaken when she says she does not have any body issues.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Adam, can you watch a full-figured, beautiful woman working out or walking the beach in a bikini without being sexually aroused? Sorry for the personal question, but I would like to know.

          • Debra Sensenig

            BTW, I am perfectly content with my body. Yes, that IS possible. I know it’s not perfect, but that’s OK with me!

          • Body issues are not about perfection. Literally no one thinks they have a perfect body. But I would say based on your comments above that you have issues with the physical body. Not your own maybe. Bodies were created by God as a good. And they should be enjoyed as a good. Yes our enjoyment of them will be corrupted by sin. And some people’s sin will mean that they can’t ever see a body as anything other than a sexual object (in a similar way that an alcoholic can’t see a drink as simply a good blessing from God as scripture describes it.)

            I am not trying to say that there should be no such thing as modesty or attention to what you are wearing. But I do think that when women’s first thoughts about clothing are a sense of responsibility for other people’s sin, then there is a body issue that has gone wrong and one that is often perpetuated by people claiming to be for modesty.

          • yes. I think it is completely possible to see a woman as a sister in christ, a full human being and not a sexual object. Crazy isn’t it.

          • Debra Sensenig

            I hear what you’re saying, but we can’t be reactionary to those who are living under the law, and throw away all constraint. the body is an amazing creation, and one of the reasons I can’t deny there’s a God! That’s why I subject myself to His Lordship and His word. You didn’t answer my question directly, but your second paragraph was satisfactory.

          • Guest

            In the same way you argue that we can’t “be reactionary to those who are living under the law,” we also can’t be reactionary to those who are living under grace, and throw away all of the freedom therein. That is what you are doing.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Freedom from sin, or freedom from righteousness?
            I do agree with what you’re saying, but people get confused on this because, if they were never saved, it feels so good and freeing to be able to cut loose on the flesh, because it’s what they wanted to do all along. That’s freedom from righteousness.

          • David E Martin

            Debra, Adam answered you, but so will I.

            For the record, I am a fully functional “straight” and happily married man. Father of 4 children.

            And yes, I can see a beautiful full-figured woman working out or on the beach in any amount of clothing or none at all without being sexually aroused or even having a sexual thought or feeling. Furthermore, I believe that that ability is God’s will for *every* man here and now… even in a fallen world.

            If all men and women follow your standards and your counsel about the natural human form, then no man would ever learn to have that ability. Every woman would remain a constant potential sexual temptation to every man, every day, every year, for every lifetime. I’m sorry, but that simply is not God’s will. God’s will is that every man live like Christ. And Christ would never sexually objectify *any* woman… no matter what she is or is not wearing. Christ is our standard… no less.

            You said above: “…because of the perversion of what was good, God made garments for them to cover themselves.”

            That statement does not have any basis in the Scriptures at all. I invite you to quote any verse you like to prove me wrong.

            You said above: “associates nakedness with disgrace. Read in Isaiah 47”

            God never gives us moral absolutes by “association.” Furthermore, nakedness is not always associated with “disgrace.” Sometimes, it just is. When there IS disgrace with nakedness, there’s *always* something else disgraceful in the passage (feel free to quote a passage–in context–to prove me wrong there, too).

            In Isa 47, the “disgrace” was not the exposure of “nakedness,” but the demotion of a person of very high rank (on a throne – v1) to the role of a servant/slave (grinding meal-v2, a task only the lowest in society did, and usually naked). Such a demotion was indeed a huge disgrace.

            God would never command sin, yet He commanded Isaiah (who wrote Isa. 47) to preach fully and completely naked for 3 whole years, non-stop (read Isa. 20). There was no “disgrace” in his obedience to God. There was no disgrace for him when people saw him or listened to him preach. He was absolutely obeying God by going naked. In fact, he would have been sinning if he had been dressed.

            Being naked as a prophet was evidently not a big deal… In 1 Samuel 19:23-24, the Spirit of God came upon King Saul (that’s what the text actually says) and that he stripped naked and prophesied for a full day and night. People saw him, too, and they were amazed… amazed not that he was naked, but that he has become a prophet. No disgrace in being a prophet. No disgrace in being naked with the prophets. No disgrace in being thought a prophet because you were acting like one… naked.

            One more thing… check the history of Christian Baptism. For the first 3-400 years of the New Testament church, they baptized all converts naked (http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html … see section 21).They even attached theological significance to the nakedness… they said that we entered the water naked as Christ was naked on the cross (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xxiv.html paragraph 2). And that we are cleansed completely so that like Adam and Eve, we could be naked and unashamed.

            So… was their theology right or is yours? If the NT church didn’t find enough reason in the Old Testament scriptures to forbid the public nudity practiced in Baptism (as it had been and still is practiced for the Jewish “mikveh”), how can it be that you find that the Bible condemns any and every exposure of the body?

            The current position about “modesty” and the unclad body assumed to be “orthodox” by conservative Christians today is not biblical. It is cultural. It is pornographic in its core comprehension meaning of the human form… and in fact, it has led to the deep bondage to pornography that is epidemic even within the evangelical and fundamental church in America today.

            We we never gain freedom from that bondage until we reject the lie that claims that “God just made men to be visual.” He didn’t (You’re welcome to quote any passage you like on this one, too…). God is relational. He made us relational (in His image), too. He wants us to use our sexuality in marriage to express His image as well… a plurality expressed as a unity. God is not drawn to the unity of the Godhead because of anything “visual,” but relational. That’s His will for our unity as well.

            David Martin

          • Debra Sensenig

            Hmmm…Good for you for disciplining yourself to get to the point of not thinking sexually of a beautiful naked woman. You would probably agree that you would be in the vast minority of men who have arrived at that place? Sounds like Jesus himself!

            Here’s the verse I was referring to…
            And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
            I didn’t follow much of the rest. I’m not a Bible scholar or historian, so I won’t pretend to be. God has given us His spirit and parallels in nature in addition to His word. Bottom line…My guess is that you don’t want your wife walking the streets naked. And a bikini is pretty much the same thing. Our culture is given to great sexual lust, and is progressively becoming more depraved. Which way are you influencing our culture?

          • LisaisLisa

            Ugh, I hate this line of reasoning. “You must be in the minority,” insinuating that, because you view one man’s restraint as the minority, women must pick up all that perceived slack because “the majority” of men have no such restraint.

            There are so many wild generalizations in your words that it’s really difficult to take you seriously. “He’s in the minority.” “A bikini is pretty much the same thing as being naked.” For someone so interested in policing others’ actions via the strict letter of the Bible, you sure do throw a lot of your own opinion in there as Gospel as well.

            I DON’T CARE if he’s in the minority. It has nothing to do with whether or not a woman chooses to wear a bikini, and EVERYTHING to do with what men (and women) do with their minds. Which way are YOU influencing our culture by arguing otherwise? I read these peoples’ (and Sarah’s) words as pushing back against the destructive human-made purity culture which has damaged many men and women and made women the “keepers” of men’s purity.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Because the “human-made purity culture” has damaged some people’s view of sexuality, does that mean we need to cast off all restraint and promote the body’s sex-appeal?
            I think you know he’s in the minority. How many men do you know who can look at every beautiful naked woman and not be sexually aroused, but rather see her soul? And many men agree that often, a bikini is more sexually attractive than complete nakedness.
            Yes, men bear a responsibility for their minds. But how hard would it be for you to keep your thoughts pure if a man touches you sexually? And when he does it time after time. I think it’s a fair comparison because research shows that men are more visually stimulated than women, *as a whole* 😉

          • LisaisLisa

            Wearing a bikini is “casting off all restraint?” I think not.

            As for the rest of your comment: I’m really scratching my head at how far you’re reaching; your comparison is a false one. If a person is being touched, it is impossible to avert his/her eyes and mind from it without engaging in dissociation, which is a mental/psychological defense mechanism usually employed in order to protect the mind against overwhelming trauma. You’re comparing existing in the same space with something/someone, and taking responsibility for the extent to which you choose to interact, to an actual invasion of one’s personal space, consensual or otherwise. That’s ludicrous.

            If a man were touching me (assuming I’m attracted to men), it would be because I allow him to. So…. ? Are you comparing a bikini’d woman in a man’s presence to some sort of nonconsensual contact? I’d be careful with that.

            Men do not bear “a responsibility” for their minds; they are the gatekeepers to their own minds. It saddens me (in a non-condescending way) that you might be surprised at the number of men I know who are respectful of womens’ wardrobe choices, who choose to remove themselves from situations due to THEIR OWN attractions/instincts rather than place the onus for their thoughts on women for having female body parts and dressing them as they see choose.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Don’t you think it’s a little heartless for a woman to dress and act seductively around a man who is not hers? Yes, I’m saying this is like nonconsensual advance to a guy. My husband agreed with this. It’s like the elephant in the room. It takes mental concentration/disassociation to replace those thoughts. I’m thankful for strong men who do that, but it’s unwise and thoughtless of a woman to do that. Tell me…does this happen–do women dress and act seductively toward men in the workplace? I think you have to agree…yes. How do you determine that?

          • David E Martin

            Debra,
            Can you tell me from the pages of Scripture why God gave Adam and Eve clothing? I’ve studied the passage very carefully. The text simply does not say. There’s not explanation. There’s no command. There is nothing but the *provision* of the garments.
            Most people seem to believe that Adam and Eve did the *right* thing by covering up with the fig leaves… and God just did it better.
            But when you read the text, it’s pretty obvious in Gen. 3:11 that God was *not* pleased with Adam’s concern over his nakedness. In fact, it was clear evidence of his sin. Rather than focusing on his naked body (which was a godly and righteous way to live just moments before), he should have run headlong–and still naked–to God and beg for mercy and forgiveness. In other words, Adam’s efforts with the fig leaves were *sin,* because it was not the right thing to do.
            So… 10 verses later when God gives Adam and Eve clothing, was it now an affirmation of what he had rebuked earlier? That simply doesn’t makes sense. Did God give them clothing to abate lust? How could that be… there were only two people there, and they were married!
            No, God’s provision of clothing was most likely a gracious provision for protection from the environment outside of the garden, which would now include thorns among other things.
            In other words, The clothing of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:21 was not a command for all of us to wear clothes at all times. If it were, then we would have to say that married couples must also wear clothes around each other.
            David

          • Jessica

            Debra, My husband can have another naked woman right by him and not be aroused. Let’s stop blaming women for Men’s lack of self control.

          • Debra Sensenig

            So the answer is to remove our clothes to condition our men to be immune to our bodies? You look at any culture where there was rampant nudity, and you’ll see deep moral decay. I see “The Fall of America” in our future, as the fall of Rome.

          • Jeanne

            Why must we assume that women who choose to cover their bodies in public are ashamed or uncomfortable with their bodies? A woman who is a follower of Jesus Christ will cover her body in public because she loves the Lord and respects herself and her husband. When a woman walks out in public in a bikini or otherwise uncovered the message is clear. She wants her body to be noticed and admired.

          • I think the opposite of your statement should be equally considered. Why should a woman who wears a bikini be considered to be sinful and flaunting her body? You are proceeding with a particular understanding of sin and the body that is not universal to the church or the church’s history. So assuming that all women are flaunting their bodies sinfully is clearly not appropriate, as is the point of this post. Sarah is not flaunting her body, nor were her friends. They were they with a group of other women and probably only other women.

            So this is a case where I don’t believe that there could be a desire to incite lust because there were literarily no men there with them. You cannot take a standard that you hold for yourself and hold others to it and assume that you are always right. That is a sin of egoism that assumes your understanding (bound necessarily by culture, your individual perceptions, your own sinful tendencies, etc) are universal.

            There are sins that are universal, murder, lying, etc. But the choice of clothing is not one of those sins. There are places in africa where showing ankles is completely inappropriate, but showing bare breast are not. And even the most modest of bathing suits today would have been considered scandalous a couple hundred years ago.

          • Jeanne

            She did say they were in public. I stand by my statement that there is only one reason a woman chooses to go out in public with her body uncovered.

          • I stand corrected that they were in public. I think it matters not a bit to my argument.

            Unless you are that woman, you asserting that they are intentionally flaunting their bodies in order to entice sin is just ridiculous. One, you can’t know that. Two, there is freedom in Christ for issues like this. This is exactly the type of thing Paul was talking about when talking about Freedom in Christ. Three, my points about culture matter when talking about sins like modesty. Saying that they don’t matter, really doesn’t change the fact that sin has always been culturally constrained. That is part of the argument between Paul and the judiazers in Acts. The judizers were trying to place a cultural understanding of sin on a group of people that did not have cultural understanding of sin in that area. That is why Paul reacted so strongly against them is because they were trying to force the law in an areas where grace should have been the rule.

          • LisaisLisa

            Here are some of the messages conveyed by a woman in a bikini:

            1. This bathing suit fit my body the best.
            2. It’s easier to use the bathroom in a two-piece.
            3. It’s REALLY HOT and I don’t want to deal with the extra fabric.
            4. I feel beautiful and confident when I wear this bathing suit.
            5. I like this style/color/brand.
            6. I feel like I can be more active in this suit than one-pieces.

            Not a single one of these reasons has anything to do with what anyone else thinks of a woman’s body, except for the woman WEARING the bikini.

            Your “logic” could extend to ANY item of clothing a woman (or man) purchases – “s/he’s only wearing that so people will notice his/her body.” I’ve heard similar sentiments lobbed at women whose clothing choices ranged from evening gowns to crappy jeans and T-shirts. Tell me, how far does the “logic” stretched? At what point are women NOT damned for their clothing choices?

          • This is actually not necessarily true. I say this as someone who has lived in a handful of various cultures in the US and am on my second (and possibly permanent) EU country.

            If I get a bikini, it is not because I want my body to be noticed. It’s because it was in the swimsuit department and it was easier to get a matching top and bottom to fit my body than find a one piece.

            Here in Germany, even little old ladies wear bikinis and no one bats an eye. Bikinis are either for sunbathing or bathing in water and no one goes gawking at anyone. In the women’s change and shower area, everyone strips in front of everyone else. We all in each segregated bathroom have the same parts in the same general areas give or take some for gravity and age.

            I grew up in the American Moral Majority/Religious Right’s Joshua Generation/Purity Culture. I lived all the rules and went so far as to even take it further for many years. I actually became much more insecure about my own body. Not that I had any agency over it until I was married. All that agency belonged to my parents for 25 years.

            In general, people know what clothing options are proper for each context. (Or they’re smart enough to ask!)

            In Asian culture you don’t show off your chest area but mini skirts are completely practical and called for. However, in European culture, mini skirts are often uncalled for but showing some décolletage is completely expected, depending on the time of year and type of attire required. It is only in Canada and the US that the Puritanical standard still reigns supreme and everyone gets up in arms and suddenly the strawman “BUT WHAT IF SOMEONE COMES NAKED?!” or “OH MY GOSH BECKY, LOOK AT HER *insert whatever is scandalous in your area here*” comes out to play.

            What if someone did come over naked? We’d let them in the house/building, give them clothing and help them.

            What if they were outside naked? ok… Are they mentally well? Is it somewhere that nudity is allowed? If no to either question, then you talk with the person in love and suggest they move along to the space where that is allowed. (Example: Their home, nudist colony, or if they need help, you call the hospital and ask what to do.)

            If they are wearing a standard of dress we don’t agree with, MOVE ON. It’s called boundaries. I mind my own backyard and work out my salvation, and if that person over there isn’t saved and the seed of the gospel has been planted — my work here is done.

            We forget that in the land of grace, especially when others are already saved and we haven’t been commissioned to disciple them ourselves — it isn’t our business and we need to just keep moving along the gospel road.

            G-d has people in all areas and walks of life in every kind of dress imaginable reaching out to every kind of person. Don’t like it? Well, maybe you weren’t called to that. Nothing wrong with it. Just mind your own and don’t yuck their yum.

        • Katie

          Debra, women like you are the reason why church attendance is falling for women like me. I’m a Single, twenty-something year old with a college degree and career. I own several bikinis. For you to state “bikinis are sex symbols” you’re clearly uneducated. Do NOT discourage young women from being comfortable with their bodies. Modesty is mostly behavior. Even the most conservative dressed women can do indecent acts. Debra, here is some advise. Buy a TV, educate yourself, and actually READ the Bible.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Yes, I guess I’m pretty uneducated about Hollywood and the ways of the world, but I intend to keep it that way. thanks.
            Oh don’t get me wrong, I want girls to be very comfortable with their bodies, and understand the body’s sacredness!! It’s an amazing thing, and so fascinating! It seems the more culture exposes the body, the more insecurities people have with their bodies. I have a group of good friends who clothe themselves in a dignified way, and the subject of body insecurities rarely ever arises. Yes, we all have things we dislike about our bodies, but it doesn’t mean we have to feel insecure as a person, as if it defines us.
            Can I ask you…what IS a sex-symbol…lingerie? Bra and underwear? how much sexier/clothing-less can you get?

          • LisaisLisa

            People consider Brad Pitt to be a sex symbol, yet I’ve never seen him in a bikini.

            Same with Robert Downey Jr, Robert Pattinson, Hugh Jackmon, Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, George Clooney, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

            Point being: your definition of “sex symbol” flows from your own opinion of what it means to you. That’s perfectly fine; the same is true of many people. But it is not a standard by which to condemn the spirituality of the people (particularly women, in your case) with whose wardrobe choices you disagree.

    • Erin

      So are you saying it’s wrong to wear a bikini at the lake on a women’s retreat? I feel that righteousness has taken over your heart sister and you are seeing past the story and taking it further than intended. The writer is simply saying that amongst her lifelong friends she shouldn’t feel the bondage of hiding her body. How dare you question her sense of value? How dare you throw stones? Are you flawless and perfect? What commandment is she breaking by wearing a bikini once a year at a remote lake with women who are believers? I think you should take a look at your own heart and values … take a look at how the world you are shoving out has really made its way into your heart. Shamelessness … I really dont think so. I have never in my life worn a bikini and I probably never will. For me I really dont see the difference between a bathing suit and a bikini (now a string bikini is a different story). I would long for the day that I would feel free enough to wear one with my girl friends at a remote lake house…. This article is more than a bikini … it’s about seeing ourselves as God intended. I really to pray your heart would soften and look inward. – Erin (had to post as a guest)

      • Debra Sensenig

        Let’s go back to my original post: My concern was that the writer of this article is telling women to find “freedom” and confidence in taking off clothes. (She did say they were in public, and that’s why she was applauding them.) That mentality has taken over so many women in the church. Freedom is not found in the clothes you take off OR PUT ON! Deep seated peace and confidence is found in knowing who you are as a Child of God! I pray women can understand this and be set free from the lies of our culture! Many times, our resistance to follow Biblical concepts has little to do with how well we know and understand the Bible, but rather, our WILL.
        I am far from perfect, but I LOVE the Lord, and I treasure what He’s given me. And I see women who may never know the contentment He gives, because they’re believing the same lies as the women of the world, and seeking help in the same places. Everywhere you go, women are dressing their wounds with the culture’s remedies. You won’t know until you’ve tried God in faith that His Word will never fail! I don’t want to make you feel condemnation for wearing a bikini. I have sympathy for girls and women who are told it’s what they need to wear when it’s not their first choice, and many of them feel too exposed, but it’s the culture’s expectation. (I’ve heard women say this) So please, don’t misread me…I say this because I love all people, and I care what happens to us as women. You are of far more value than your body type or size! Love and prayers…

        • LisaisLisa

          She is not telling women to find freedom/confidence in “taking off clothes.” She is sharing that she and her friends (and MANY other women) are finding freedom from the lies which tell them that their bodies are the gatekeepers of men’s hearts.

          This mentality SHOULD take over men and women in the Church. Freedom is NOT found in the clothes you take off or put on, you are correct. Did you read what you just wrote? It is true. Period. You characterize women who don’t wear bikinis as possibly “never knowing the contentment He gives because they’re believing the same lies as the women of the world” based solely upon WHAT THEY’RE WEARING.

          You have to be aware of how you’re coming off as condemning to women who view wardrobe/bodies differently than you do; when you assume that these women have NOT “tried God in faith that his word will never fail,” do you see how alienating and abrasive and hurtful that sounds? You are making huge leaps about womens’ hearts based on your judgments about their wardrobes. That is inappropriate. You care about what happens to us as women – I am thankful for that. But you need to understand what your own attitude is “doing to us as women.”

          I mean, really… Why just bikinis? Why are women not responsible to stay away from ALL swimwear in public? It clings to the body and accentuates every curve… Why should we not do everything we can do hide the curves of our bodies in general? Do you wear one-pieces? Why or why not? What about men who are attracted to women who wear one-pieces? Is that not disrespectful toward them? What about men who are attracted to women who wear jeans? turtlenecks? flip-flops? Are we to avoid all of these clothing items as well? Whether the answer is “yes” or “no,” the reason is because each person is responsible for what they dwell on. Period.

          • Debra Sensenig

            The whole focus of this article was praising women for taking clothes off, insinuating that that was symbolic of spiritual freedom. No. My concern is what women are doing to their entire gender…cheapening the body and coming off as playthings. Have there been more or less sex crimes after “women’s liberation?” We thought we were doing ourselves a big favor, but instead, its destroyed the family structure, creating more affairs, splitting families…etc…but that’s another subject.
            Those who cry “legalism” are usually guilty of the same thing in the next breath. This article is legalistic…focusing on the external.
            The bikini subject…well…it falls very close to the sin of nakedness, and that’s not a debatable issue to me. Those who try seem to have their own personal agenda. I will love all women regardless of what they wear, and I have friends from all walks of life. That’s why it matters–I care how they’re being deceived by those trying to justify fitting in with the world or have political agendas. Remember, the road to heaven is narrow and less traveled. Following Christ will always go against the grain of the culture.
            To answer your question, I wear a one-piece under a cover-up when swimming in public. It’s not because I’m ashamed of my body, but rather, stating that it’s not available to the public. My husband appreciates this, and he nearly always wears a shirt when swimming in public, depending on the situation.

          • LisaisLisa

            “Those who cry “legalism” are usually guilty of the same thing in the next breath. This article is legalistic.”

            Between this and the victim-blaming in this comment, I’m done. Peace to you.

          • tt

            So does your husband think every woman wearing a swimsuit in a place where people are swimming are “available” to him? If that is so, he has more problems than can be solved by women not wearing bikinis.

          • Debra Sensenig

            Absolutely not! He wants to respect all women, and wishes they would respect themselves enough to covering up. Think about it, if something is valuable or sacred, would it be spattered all over the place, made available for all at no price? I ask you, if a naked woman’s body isn’t available to the public, why would she advertise it? Why is it ok for women to wear “sexy” clothes, but not children? Do you want your 5 year old daughter wearing something that bearly covers her genitals in the presence of evil men…ie..a public place? I hope not!

  • Melinda Cadwallader

    “I thought bikinis had to be earned.” Glory. You know, Wonder Woman got a lot of flak in the 40’s when she first came on to the comic book scene, all because of her “big girl underwear”. The critics wanted her to be more modest and wear a skirt. Problem was, a skirt would have restricted her from moving, jumping and leaping with ease. It just wasnt worth compromising her capabilities to please another mans issues with modesty. Love this, love you. xo

  • Chasteberry

    Oh my goodness, you made me tear up. I’ve railed about the rights of women to be free from modesty doctrine for years, I just wrote 2 posts on modesty for my blog, I bought myself a sort of theological political bikini to MAKE MY POINT, and I’ve still felt, always, like I’m not in the bikini class. Your struggle spoke to mine, exactly. I had an unexpected pregnancy last year, and, at 23, have struggled painfully with the changes my body went through from it, and I never thought before about the connection between being free from modesty doctrine and being free from body image shame. Thank you for this.

  • First of all, thank you for writing this. I’ve had a body image post I’ve been terrified to publish…and you may have just given me the courage to finally hit that button.

    I grew up in a conservative church that tried to control how girls dressed. After I graduated high school, though, I ran into very little of that mindset, even in church.

    Whenever there was an occasion for which bikinis were donned, it was never a big thing. Even with us guys.

    It’s striking to see how education/perspective/focus can have such a dramatic effect. Since we didn’t have people constantly preaching to us that women’s bodies were shameful and that we were sex machines with no control, it wasn’t really an issue.

    • Isabel McArthur Jones

      SO well said. Thanks for sharing a perspective from the men, one that’s healthy.

  • Nic Karisa Ryan Province

    Modesty= letting nothing on the outside distract from what is on the inside. I agree with the fact that women believe lies about self-image but the answer is not in a bikini it is in the Lord. True Freedom is also found in the Lord not in clothing.

    • Matt

      Yes and far be it from the Lord to enter into our physical space and deliver some of that freedom in a tangible, material manner. God would never stoop so low as to interact with the human body in a meaningful way…

  • kelsey

    I have this too. …a group of friends that sees each other once a year. We have the same challenges and conversations amongst a lot of laughter. And I am beyond thankful!

  • Monica

    Thank you for this! The other day I was in shorts, Tshirt and sandals without makeup and I wanted to get something to eat. I toyed with going through a drive-thru because I wasn’t dressed “nicely” and didn’t have any makeup on. Then God reminded me that I am beautiful regardless of what I have and don’t have on. So I stood a little straighter, walked into 5 Guys and ordered my burger, fries and Coca Cola. No the food isn’t the healthiest, but it is good!

    I have put on 30+ extra pounds over the past seven years and after reading your post I realize I am ashamed of this. I trained as an image consultant and a life coach, and I am a former ballet dancer and fitness buff. Today I realize that I have been holding off on moving forward with the business/ministry God has called me to (image and beauty consulting from the inside out – mind, soul, spirit, body) because I believe I don’t look the part. I know that I know that I know that God loves me, and I also know that I need to love me. How can I teach other women to embrace who they are and are becoming when I can’t accept myself?! Perhaps this is where Romans 12:2 needs to fit into my life. Time for a new perspective.

    Sarah, thank you for posting this. It has been an eye opener for me. Hopefully someday I will buy a bikini and wear it on the beach in broad daylight!

    Be blessed,
    Monica

  • Malina Larson

    Fantastic post. I thoroughly enjoyed it and agree 100%. I bought my very first bikini last summer when I was pregnant, and wore it with my postpartum body this summer. It was wonderful.

  • Ellie Stailey

    Sarah, thank you so much for being real and talking about the things that so many of us are afraid to talk about. It’s funny how, especially in the church, it’s so hard to admit to struggling with body image. I find that I can know the love and acceptance of Papa God, understand my identity, have a revelation of my redeemed self, but still struggle so much with my body. And that is so embarrassing to admit when you are a leader in the church. I just hate to be “that girl” who struggles with her body, when I know my intrinsic value. Anyway, thank you for going there. What you had to say was freeing in so many ways.

  • fiona lynne

    The timing of this post is fun for me… Today I took my three month old swimming for the first time. Before I left I tried on three different bikinis/suits and nervously stood in front of my husband (who of course reassured me I looked great in them all). I felt so unsure in this new post-baby body. Then I got there and there were two other mamas in the baby pool and they just looked so HAPPY playing with their wee ones. And I felt a little silly for worrying so much. Today I got to enjoy my girl’s big-eyed face a she floated on the water for the first time. That’s all that mattered in the end.

  • Rosie

    I guess when we dress, an appropriate question is not “What can I get away with and feel good about myself?” but more, “What is helpful, loving and kind to the people I am going to be around?” Because, nothing is truly just about ourselves. Our actions have an affect on the people around us. So, does my wardrobe reflect a woman who has been made new by her Heavenly Father? Or does it reflect someone who is taking her cues from the people/culture around her? I think its helpful to look at the modesty issue from outside of our cultural normatives. Our bodies are not shameful at all – they are beautifully made! But it seems that you are saying because they are beautiful, and we should not be ashamed of them, that that means we can wear whatever we want. I do not see that freedom in the new testament. I think Jesus teaches that we should be loving by watching out for our “weaker brother.”

  • I literally blogged about this exact same thing yesterday! (http://wp.me/p4IDfy-4k) I find it interesting that when I post about being hurt by church or about my experience in dealing with my father’s suicide or even memes of me as a child, I garner FAR MORE shares than when I write about gender equality in the church, and how the modesty discussion as a whole needs a paradigm shift. I am praying that more people understand the detriment that is being done to our babies. In the words of Hermione, “If not us, then who? And if not now, when?”

    As always, thank you for sharing.

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  • Amber Bishop

    Sarah, I just love this article! I actually posted it on my Facebook wall yesterday and got a friendly comment about men and lust and bikinis…I just had to write it out in order to respond authentically while honoring her thoughts. Apparrently…according to my stats this topic is a biggie;-) I’d love your thoughts…http://suburbanabbess.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/bikinis-and-the-women-who-wear-them/

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  • April

    David, I love what you have to say on modesty. Seriously. Thank you. And if you ever write a book, I want to read it. 🙂

    • David E Martin

      Thank you, April.

      I really do feel like God wants me to do just that. For now, however, you can read some of my writings at http://mychainsaregone.org and the associated blog.

      David.

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  • dangjin1

    “But I don’t think you can determine some else’s motives or spiritual life simply by how tight her yoga pants are on a given day. A woman’s spiritual depth or intelligence – let alone her value – isn’t indicated by how high her neckline or low her hemline”
    yes it does as it tells everyone if the woman is obeying scripture or not concerning modesty and it tells us if she has conquered those sinful feelings of jealousy, envy and other negative traits.
    you would be surprised at how much the way a woman dresses and speaks tell u sabout their spiritual lives and intelligence.

    • tt

      Where exactly are yoga pants mentioned in the Bible? I missed that part.

      • dangjin1

        the passages about being modest, the passages about having the right attitude and fruits of the spirit.

  • zoie

    I love this… I am in m 40s and have recently been trying to change my thinking about my body. I’m a runner and a swimmer but still soft around the middle. I always feel self conscious about my weight and I feel bad about it despite the fact I can run a fast half marathon and easily swim over 2 miles! So I’m retraining myself to feel good about my body and myself – soft middle and all!

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  • Isabel McArthur Jones

    This is absolutely lovely. I recently wrote my own blog about this topic as well. Sharing for those who might get something out of it.

    https://hopesingact.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/acting-with-models

  • I love this. Every honest, soul baring word. Please tell me….did you wear the bikini???

  • Christina

    And loving our neighbor? Not waltzing around in our underwear around our brothers or our sisters who may not feel comfortable around bikinis? Wow. Women with other women who are all ok w it, sure. Husband & wife? Naked & unashamed. Mixed company? Strangers?

    No thanks. Ever since Eden clothing has been required (even in Heaven), not because our bodies are fallen but because our eyes are now.

    Please don’t use your freedom to make someone else stumble. (Galatians 5)

  • Kelly-Anne Kent

    Seriously LOVE THIS!!!! Thank you for your honesty & I really hope you got into that bikini since writing this 🙂 This is so thought-provoking, encouraging & challenging! It is a powerful statement & I’m proud to say after 3 babies and constant struggles with how I feel about my body – I totally rock a bikini!!!! Why not I say?!?!?! Ha xx

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