When speaking to parents and leaders of teenagers, I often hear a version of this question:
“There is a girl in my church (or a group of girls) who wear totally inappropriate clothes to church. What do I say to her?”
Here’s my response …
Drop Your Stone
For those of us who have grown up in the church, the choices of non-Christians can often be alarming. But we need to stop being surprised when the lost act lost. It’s been my consistent experience that young women usually don’t dress immodestly because they want to ooze sexuality but simply because they don’t understand God’s heart on the issue.
Let’s take a detour to a story that might help us see how to approach that young lady in your church like Jesus would.
In John 8, Jesus encountered a woman whose life was riddled with sexual sin, and she probably looked like it. She had been “caught in the act” of adultery after all. I doubt she had time to throw on modest clothing before she was dragged before Jesus. How does Jesus handle the issue?
First, He deals with the hearts of her accusers.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v.7).
Maybe you don’t come in to church wearing a spaghetti-strap top and way-too-short skirt, but did you bring anger, bitterness, resentment or addiction? Immodesty is an easy-to-spot sin, but don’t come at that girl with judgment or frustration. Wait to approach her until you can do so in love.
Start With the Gospel
After the woman’s accusers realized they had too much of their own junk to make a case against someone else, they slowly slinked away. But that didn’t mean Jesus let the adulterous woman off the hook. He did confront her sin. Titus 2:3-5 gives us permission to speak truth into the lives of young women. Look how Jesus did it:
Jesus: “Has no one condemned you?”
Woman: “No one, Lord.”
Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).
This is the simple, beautiful message of the gospel. There’s no doubt we are all guilty of sin. We can’t cover it up or talk our way out of it. The adulterous woman deserved the punishment the crowd wanted to give her. She was guilty. I deserve the punishment of death that is suitable for sinners. I am guilty. But Jesus offers the woman an exchange. Trade in condemnation for acceptance. Trade in shame for love. Trade in a life of sin to become a new creation.
Does that girl in the pew in front of you know the gospel? Has she turned her life over to Him? Just because she is in church doesn’t mean she has. When you approach her, start with the gospel.