As the parent of both an adolescent young man and young lady, I can tell you that everyday is an evidence of the steep learning curve required to be a proactive parent for todays Christian teen and in todays post-Christian culture. Trying to protect and shelter without being in a total lock-down mode, staying current with the vernacular and temptations aimed at teens these days, trying to balance the presence of accountability with privacy, learning to communicate to kids who are smart enough to challenge and argue their cases with some sophistication, finding the time and techniques to train and not just attack and many other challenges of rearing good teens is just overwhelming at times.
One of the issues that Im constantly monitoring and discussing with my family and as the pastor of our church involves appropriate attire for young ladies. I believe this is an important issue for several reasons. What young ladies wear says something about the character, discernment and intentions of the individual. Truly, todays fashions are billboards that advertise everything from the brand of the company, to philosophy, to values. It also has an impact on young men (and old men for that matter.) Any red-blooded American male can tell you that provocative, immodest and suggestive clothing is at best a distraction and at worst, a significant temptation. Finally, in a world where there is constant pressure to be sexually active, be attractive, be hip and other values of questionable motivation, our clothes really say a lot about who we are in Christ.
Im not suggesting that Christian young ladies should wear burquas and avoid being out in the daylight. I am suggesting that one of the duties of being a dad is to take a proactive posture in protecting our children from sending the wrong message, being attracted to the wrong things and positioning themselves for undue temptation or moral failures. I realize that at forty-three, Im approaching the age of middle-aged fuddy-duddiness and if you dont believe that, just ask my children. But I also feel that any time my children leave my house, they are positioned to make a statement about the values of our household and more importantly of the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as that is the case, dad is going to have a say in what is worn.
I have three basic standards of discernment when it comes to appropriate attire for young men and women. Modesty, Identity and Propriety. Modest means that it shouldnt be suggestive, revealing or overtly calling attention to ones body in such a way that it might cause others to lust. Identity deals with association and can cover everything from style to advertising. We made the decision in my home to avoid clothing made by Abercrombie and Fitch because of their association with pornography-like advertising techniques we dont want to be identified with those values. We generally avoid clothing that identifies the wearer as rebellious, part of a dark sub-culture or morally loose or gendered confused. Finally, the issue of propriety requires us to ask if what we are wearing is appropriate to the occasion and those with whom we will be interacting as a representative of the Lord. We still ask our kids to dress up a bit for church. If they dress up for school or work, they should also be willing to show a little extra effort and respect for the house of the Lord.
Im not being legalistic and I fully realize that wearing the right things does not make one a better Christian or more spiritual. However, I do believe that a good Christian and one who is desiring spiritual maturity should be conscious of his or her testimony and examine everything from the inside and the outside.
But when it comes right down to it, Dad has a duty to be a gate-keeper in his own home. This may make him downright unpopular at times, but it is his responsibility. For the sake of his children. For the sake of his own reputation. For the assistance of others. For the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope every father will be challenged to provide leadership and direction to their children when it comes to appearance. Remember, every day is a fresh opportunity to train in Biblical principles and to prepare for spiritual leadership.