And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
My family didn’t have too many problems with modesty. Prior to coming to Beaverton Grace Bible Church, we didn’t have any “formal” teaching on modesty. It was a natural and seemingly obvious idea that one would dress in a way that would reflect an image that Christ would want us to have. If God seemed concerned with the heart, so should we. If certain clothing invited roaming eyes to zero in on specific body parts, then it made sense to avoid those styles of clothing. This was a simple solution with no rigid rules, just basic common sense.
At Beaverton Grace Bible Church, we were told how we should and should not dress – specific guidelines, such as do not expose skin above the knees – especially the thighs. We found very quickly that there was a lot of attention focused on this issue – and in my opinion, a very unhealthy amount of attention. In another post I will discuss how I believe the modesty rules backfired.
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|BGBC Non-Sanctioned Shorts, drawn by 9-yr old resident artist|
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My son is 6’8”. Yes, he’s a very tall drink of water. It is very hard to find pants to fit him because not only is he tall, but he is very thin. While there are Big & Tall stores for tall men, I’ve yet to see a Skinny & Tall store. I was thrilled one day to find some shorts that seemed quite long. This kid has never been picky about clothes and has always been so appreciative of the clothes I get for him and he was happy to wear his new shorts – the longest ones he had ever had. I remember my heart ached when I overheard a teen tell another friend that my son’s shorts were still too short. They were knee length, but I’m sure more skin was showing when he was sitting down. Was I expected to sew my son shorts the BGBC-approved length since there were none to be found in local stores AND on the internet? Ugh!
Thankfully, at the time, I did not take it personally, but realized that this was one aspect of what happens in a church with legalism: people act unloving and unkind because the rules are more important than the heart of the people. Some got caught in this trap of judging whether each others’ clothes would pass the modesty test and talked amongst each other when someone violated the rules.
Legalism, which is an aspect of many spiritually abusive churches, robs us of deep relationships. It forces one to focus so much on the rules and externals, it’s hard to look beyond them. It pushes people away from you because they feel like they are being judged – and they very well could be. I tell you, it’s nice to be at a place finally where I can see people for who they are without distraction of their tattoos, short hemline, cleavage showing, bulging biceps, piercings, you name it. When you start accepting and loving people for who they are, those externals really are only external.
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LEGALISM: Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9)
- Adding basic rules to a faith which makes it more exclusive and isolated from “outsiders” who do not think, act, or believe as the “true” believers do is called LEGALISM.
- Legalistic groups have their own authority figures who provide the rules “their” people are to live by. These leaders have answers for everything and their rules are considered nearly equal to the authority of the Bible.
- Legalistic leaders see themselves as more than just leaders. They feel better, more spiritual and have fewer failings and temptations than “their” people. They become spiritual detectives looking for raised hem lines or hair over the collar as if these things prove what “their” people are really like inside. Abuse of power follows.
- Members are to look to their leaders for the “standard”; how they should think, what they should do, and how they should dress.
- The system teaches that the leaders know best and to challenge them is to challenge God.
- As one chooses to become part of a legalistic system his or her freedom to choose is quickly lost. Appearances and associations become most important. If a member is confused about something the fault is with the member and not with the group.
- Legalism emphasizes externals more than internals and people learn that appearance is more important than what they are on the inside and one’s life becomes a performance benefit for those who may be watching. (http://www.thelyingtruth.info/vot/legalism.php)