Slutwalk was first held in Toronto after a police officer outraged women world over when he said in a speech to university students, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” What started as a protest in one city has now spread over 60 cities worldwide. The fire caught up in India too. Skimpily dressed women paraded the streets of New Delhi gearing up for its ‘Slut walk’. The capital has now become a runway for women to claim their right to wear what they want. Not long after the Delhi episode, a slut walk parade was organized at Brigade road, Bangalore. Both Delhi and Bangalore witnessed women dressed in fishnet stockings, revealing corsets, body hugging T shirts and pants participating in the ‘slutwalk’ parade telling the male gender that women shouldn’t be judged by the clothes they wear. A student of Delhi University says, “I have selected the skimpiest clothing from my wardrobe and I will prove that a women’s integrity is in her heart and not in what she wears.” Certainly, the Slutwalk movement has provoked some serious discussions within our society on female dressing. As followers of Jesus, this may be a good time for us too to talk about it.
It is way too easy for us to go along with the tide, to camouflage ourselves and just ‘fit in’ with the rest of the world when it comes to choosing our clothes. In contrast to what the world says and the parade it takes, the Bible exhorts us to dress sensibly, decently and modestly (I Tim.2:9). Some suggest that the idea of modesty in dressing is something relative. What is modest for a particular people group may be immodest for another group and vice verse. So, where do we fit in this kind of ‘modest dressing’ in a cross cultural world where each culture has its own dress code?
The key to understanding what constitutes modesty in dress is to examine the attitudes and the intents of the heart. If a woman professes to be a Christian and yet dresses in a way that will draw undue attention to her body, she is a poor witness of Jesus Christ. She is forgetting that her body has been redeemed and is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19, 20). The word modesty does not mean that a woman has to be covered from head to toe as some teach; rather dressing should be decent and not provoke any other person to lust after her. If a woman’s heart is inclined towards godliness, she will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing anything in public. Similarly, a true Christian will never wear clothing that gives a negative impression about her personal testimony as a child of God. Even if everyone in her circle dresses immodestly, a godly girl resists the temptation to go with the crowd. Modesty in dress reveals a modesty and godliness of the heart and attitude.
As Christians, our dressing mantra should be: ‘Dressed to glorify God’ and not ‘Dressed to kill.’ Clothes do not make a Christian but Christians reveal their identity through their clothes and appearance. The Bible does not prescribe a standardized dress code for Christians but it calls us to follow the simplicity and unpretentiousness of Jesus’ lifestyle. We need to take courage not to conform to the seductive dictates of fashion but be transformed by the sensible directives of the word of God. Our outward appearance is a silent witness to our Christian identity.
By Sarah Susannah Sampath.