I had a great time at presbyterial, and so did the other ladies from Redeemer. I always worry that a whole day is going to be “wasted.” But once I’m there, I love the fellowship with my sisters in Christ. Mrs. Hunter’s perspective on her time on the mission field with Rev. Hunter was fascinating. Great Q&A session, too. Thanks to all of you at Covenant for hosting.
I didn’t have a chance to talk to you privately that day, so I’ll bend your ear now electronically. Our pastor has asked me to “take under my wing” a young woman who began attending our church earlier this year and is now taking membership classes. Let’s call her “Maggie.” Maggie comes to worship services dressed provocatively. The pastor thinks, and I agree, that this matter is best addressed woman-to-woman. How can I approach Maggie about such a sensitive subject? What if I offend her and she doesn’t come back to church? I don’t want to ask any other ladies from Redeemer for help because I fear I’d tarnish Maggie’s reputation just by discussing the problem. If you have suggestions, let me know.
* * * * *
Glad to hear you enjoyed presbyterial. Hosting it is a lot of work, but I can honestly say we loved having the opportunity to serve. Your presence is always encouraging to me, so, if that counts, your day at presbyterial is never wasted!
The Bible says women should dress “in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (1 Tim. 2:9). Sounds simple enough, but it’s easy to fall short of this standard due to vanity, sensuality, worldliness, or plain old bad judgment. Confronting these sins in ourselves is difficult, but confronting another with them can be downright painful. So, how should you talk to Maggie about this?
Well, I have a few suggestions. We’ve faced this problem in our congregation from time to time (often with covenant youth!), and I’ve learned a few things by trial and error. First, approach this matter with prayer, humility, and patience. Seeking forgiveness for your own sin will help you to have the proper perspective and compassion when helping Maggie. “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). And remember that we, like Maggie, are all works in progress. Is this a situation where you simply need to be patient with a weaker sister, pray for her, think the best of her, model good behavior, and let the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit do its work? Or is this a situation where love demands that you speak?
If you do need to raise this issue with Maggie, be sure to do so within the bounds of Christian friendship. That means you’ll need to take the time to get to know her and to let her get to know you. I imagine this is what your pastor had in mind when he asked you to take Maggie “under your wing.” He doesn’t want you simply to deliver the news to Maggie that her clothing offends, with proof texts. When you befriend Maggie, this issue can be addressed as part of a nurturing, and even protective, relationship. Maggie is less likely to be offended if she is convinced that you love her and want what’s best for her.
Also, approach this touchy subject in its proper biblical context. The apostle Paul writes that women should adorn themselves “with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (1 Tim. 2:10). The apostle Peter admonishes women not to adorn themselves merely externally, but “with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). Any discussions you have with Maggie about “what not to wear” should be accompanied by the apostles’ instructions on what to wear. Remember, you want to encourage Maggie to pursue godliness, not to keep a list of outward rules. As she grows in her love for the Lord, you can expect that her behavior (including the way she dresses) will reflect that.
One final thought: there are a number of books out there by Christian women about Christian womanhood. Maybe you and Maggie could work through one of these together. Since Maggie is new to the church, this may lead to a number of teachable moments and help her see the big picture.
I hope this goes well, Bev. I’ll be praying for you and for Maggie.
In his service,
* * * * *
Thanks for your advice. I’m taking a long-term perspective on this, as you suggested. Maggie and I met for lunch yesterday for the first time. I’m looking forward to getting to know her and praying that the Lord will use our relationship to edify us both.
See you at the fall presbyterial!
New Horizons, April 2012.