“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7
As soon as sin began, legalism began. Adam tried to cover his shame by his own works. However that did not work. Just three verses after Adam makes his own garment, he tells God he ran from Him because he was naked. Why did Adam feel naked after making a garment of fig leaves? Because in the presence of God we are naked, clothed in our own works. Later in Gen 3:21 God clothes Adam in sheepskins, showing him that for his nakedness to be covered, the Lamb of God would have to die.
Only the death of the Lamb of God can cover our spiritual nakedness.
Many look at the modesty issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality abounds. But there is a greater danger in immodesty than sexual immorality. Only by looking at immodesty in light of the cross can we really sense its significance. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.
Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. We get a better picture when we read,
“A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 312)
So they weren’t really walking around naked in the Garden, as we think of the word “naked.” They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. He tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works), but that did not work. Likewise our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we see the modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame.
Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior. So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The further away from God we are the more clothes we take off. But the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress modestly.
In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, He clothed Adam with the animal skins pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 8:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However in Luke 8:35, after he is converted, we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind,” he began dressing appropriately. This had nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would be a sexual temptation for anyone.
The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 8. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.
Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes go around naked because that is their culture. But they are called heathen tribes for a reason. And why did Paul say, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Paul writes that he is “crucified to the world.” What is “the world” to which he is crucified? Is that not the same as his culture? So it is the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.
At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off.”This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus, as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity.
At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are created in the image of God and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.
Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor.
“There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” (Ellen White, Counsels on Health, p. 364)
Please keep in mind that this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option. Let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not be guided by our feelings or even culture.
Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the TV or video monitor and everywhere else, including in church?
Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be an appropriate way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross?