Accessories to Adultery

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G

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings on another unusual Lord’s Day (due to CV-19),

As I have been thinking on how quickly the Church by and large has placed restrictions and placed bans on Public Worship in the name of “to protect the lives of others and love your neighbor”, I have been worried that this has been a sign that even in the church the lie of the “physical is more important than the spiritual” may be showing it’s head even among the saints, even among ministers. Today, in my readings both in 1 Timothy and a book on The Thoelogy of the Family, I have been meditating on modesty, both inward and outward. Below is excerpt written by a Baptist minister Robert G. Spinney.

The connection you might ask? Well in my mind I have to ask, would the church be as willing to follow a modest dress code (for men and women) to help protect the flock from the spiritual disease of lust and adultery? We have been very swift and strict about stoping gatherings for a version of influenza, but I fear if this same type of defense, milltance, and strictness was taken against spiritual sin (a much higher spread and mortality rate mind you), that we might find many not so willing to comply. Anyways, I hope you find the below article challenging as either a parent, minister, or generally as a layman. May this COVID-19 event serve as a wake-up call to us all to take Spiritual Disease as, if not more, serious than “how to wash your hands properly”. So I ask myself as well: “Grant are you militant against spiritual disease in your life and in the lives of those in your household?”

Robert G. Spinney

Christians have long connected immodest clothing to sexual immorality. Amazingly, that is challenged today. The person who points out the link between immorality and revealing clothing is sometimes thought to be expressing only his or her own personal weakness regarding sexual temptations. The wearer of skimpy clothing (and the skimpy clothing itself) is not perceived to be the problem; rather, the problem allegedly rests with the person who protests the skimpy clothing. (This is the same argument that militant feminists have long made, an argument we now hear Christians making: women should be free to wear whatever they want and any resulting problems are due to vulgar men.) This silences appeals for modest clothing: he who makes such appeals is deemed to be shifting the blame for his own lust. Thanks to socially acceptable immodesty, the person who challenges immodesty is accused of having a dirty mind.

But the old confessions and catechisms expose the emptiness of this contention. Long before bikinis, Speedos, short shorts, and strapless dresses, Christians realized the essential connection between sexual immorality and immodest clothing. Their comprehensive application of God’s Word regarding sexual purity—and their serious pursuit of holiness— led them to denounce immodest clothing. The modern claim that no clothing is out-of-bounds for a Christian would have bewildered our spiritual forefathers…

[This article] is an appeal to obey the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exo 20:14). [It] requires the preservation of both our own andour neighbor’s sexual purity, a purity that should be displayed in our hearts as well as our behavior. Negatively, the commandment forbids unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. We violate it if our clothing expresses our own sexual lusts, promotes sexual immorality either in ourselves or in others, tacitly93 (if perhaps unintentionally) sanctions unchastity and lusting, or tempts others to indulge in sexual sins.

Are you an accessory to adultery? Our legal system rightly recognizes that both murderers and accessories to murder are lawbreakers. Similarly, both adulterers and accessories to adultery are guilty of breaking God’s Law.

If we wear clothing that encourages lust in someone else, then we are an accessory to lust. That makes us accessories to sin—regardless of our intentions. The Christian cannot say, “I’m not trying to be sexually provocative with my clothing. I have no immoral motives. Therefore, my clothing is modest.” I will go further. As a husband and father, I am the head of my household. When I allow my family members to wear clothing that contributes to someone else’s heart-level adultery, I am guilty of promoting sin.

This is one reason why both men and women must dress modestly. Men can promote lust in women just as women can promote sexually immoral thoughts in men. God’s Word speaks clearly to the issue of becoming an accessory to sin. The Bible uses the phrase stumbling block [or offenses] where we usually use the word accessory.

What is a stumbling block? It is something that entices someone to sin. In Matthew 18:7-9, Jesus said, “Woe unto the world because of offences [stumbling blocks]! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”…In this passage, Jesus is primarily concerned that we examine ourselves and eliminate stumbling blocks that tempt us to sin. But we can also create hindrances and obstacles for other people—and woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! This concept applies to much more than clothing, but it certainly includes clothing.

Notice the extreme metaphors in this passage: Amputate your hand. Cut off your foot. Gouge out your eye. Of course, Jesus is not sanctioning self-mutilation. He is using figurative language to make a point: take drastic action to avoid hurting yourself or others spiritually. Do radical things to make sure obstacles do not hinder your pursuit of the Kingdom of God…Dressing modestly is a relatively small price.

I am stunned when I hear a Christian say, “If my clothing causes Greg to lust, that’s his problem.” That attitude is simply unbiblical. It is the same as saying, “I am not responsible for the moral stumbling blocks that I create with my clothing.” To be sure, Greg’s lust is his problem and is primarily his problem. But if your clothing makes you an accessory to lust—a stumbling block—then the Word of God says it has become your problem also. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself pronounces condemnation upon those people who encourage others to sin: woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! John MacArthur makes this very point in his discussion of 1 Timothy 2:9 and Matthew 18:7-9: “A woman characterized by this attitude [that is, modesty] will dress so as not to be the source of any temptation…A godly woman hates sin so much that she would avoid anything that would engender sin in anyone. Better to be dead than lead another believer into sin!”94 Why do some Christians dress so as to make themselves “lusting events”? Often it is due to innocent ignorance. Many believers simply do not realize that other Christians are easily tempted to sin by immodest clothing. This is especially true for Christian women: they often do not understand that many Christian men experience great anguish of soul as they fight with sexual temptation. Without intending to, they wear clothing that is a stumbling block. Be mindful that Christian men are saints, not angels! Sisters, please love your brothers enough to avoid tempting them to sin. Margaret Buchanan is right when she writes, “By dressing in a provocative way, girls and women are actually sexually harassing men.” This is true even when there is no deliberate intent to promote sensuality with one’s clothing.

In other cases, however, the problem is not innocent ignorance; rath-er, it is unwillingness to honor God and love our neighbors with our clothing. The Bible declares that the Christian’s body belongs to God, both by creation and by redemption (1Co 6:19-20). Every square inch of a Christian’s life is to be lived under Christ’s Lordship and for God’s glory—and this includes the Christian’s apparel. “I can dress any way I want to” is simply not something a Christian can say.

Please hear your Lord when He says that drastic action must be taken to minimize temptations and stumbling blocks. This is a command, not a suggestion. (See 1Co 8:9; 10:31-33.) Dressing modestly is simply one result of a godly and unselfish concern for others’ well-being.

_____

From Dressed to Kill, published by Tulip Publications.

Robert G. Spinney: Baptist minister and associate professor of history at Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, VA.
 
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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I feel COVID has exposed this and many other areas of negligence. Lesser to greater. If we are so worried about physical plagues, why are we not more earnest against spiritual ones? If we are so desperate against COVID, then why not much more against both private, corporate, and national sins? And if we are so frightened and shaken by providence against our health, why not more against God's spiritual judgments?
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I've been thinking about the need for us to speak plainly with one another in the church. This has never been more difficult, I imagine, than in our day. But not being forthright with one another in love about issues like immodesty and others hasn't served the church very well. "The night is far spent; the day is at hand." It's time.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
I've been thinking about the need for us to speak plainly with one another in the church. This has never been more difficult, I imagine, than in our day. But not being forthright with one another in love about issues like immodesty and others hasn't served the church very well. "The night is far spent; the day is at hand." It's time.
Amen. Remaining silent or unclear about obvious visible issues that can spread spiritual disease during public worship is the opposite of loving. Some of our modern confessional Baptist brethren do an excellent job of addressing this topic in the modern context.
 
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nickipicki123

Puritan Board Freshman
Where is the line? What is considered modest? These are both very subjective.

The line about women wearing revealing clothing and sexually harassing men is a little extreme. If a woman is showing you her privates, then yes, that would be sexual harassment. But is wearing pants the same thing? Is wearing a skirt that's shorter than knee-length the same thing? If a woman naturally has a big chest, you're going to notice, even if she dresses like an Amish woman. Is she sexually harassing the men around her by her natural curves?

I get frustrated by this conversation every time it comes up, because so much is subjective. And I'm someone who wears long, flowy dresses most of the time.

I think it is a good idea for women to evaluate how we're dressing and behaving, especially around the opposite sex. But how can we know if the way we're dressing is making someone else stumble?
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
I agree with Nicki. Putting the burden on women to not look tempting is a bottomless slope. Look at the muslim countries that violently enforce head-to-toe coverings--that's the logical conclusion of the forced modesty thing. Yet because the men (and women) are unrepentant heathens, there's as much lust in their hearts and adultery in their members as if they were on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
Another problem with far-reaching dress codes is that women are people too: they have a right to want to dress comfortably for the conditions, and they have a right to expect Christian men to keep their hearts. Also, they need to be attractive--they ought to be attractive. I live with four ladies in my house, and I know that looking pretty is very important to them--it's in their God-given nature. The Lord is not ashamed to declare in the Psalms (speaking figuratively, but still, it's a comparison He's not embarrassed to make): "Then shall the king desire thy beauty..."
I won't deny that there's a lot of inappropriate dress out there, and much of it springs from a sinful heart, but we cannot make blanket condemnations of a certain thing because we find it makes us uncomfortable. There are also things appropriate for one place that are unsuited for another. What is perfectly decent in the context of the beach (and no, it is not possible to swim in a dress--women must be given license to wear comfortable things to swim in), would be indecent at the restaurant (I'd get rightly turned away if I showed up to eat shirtless and in dripping swim trunks).
Lastly, for now, while we men cannot control how women dress who are not under our headship, and we cannot control the magazines at the checkout nor the billboards on the highway, we can--we must, with God's help, keep our own hearts. There are places I dare not go; TV shows I dare not watch; publications I dare not read, because I fear for the condition of my heart which is already an idol factory by nature. Some are not wicked in themselves, but I fear they would cause me to stumble, so I avoid. But where in God's providence I cannot avoid--the grocery store, a public place where duty takes me, I must still keep my heart with all diligence. Cutting off MY OWN hands and plucking out MY OWN eyes if they offend me, but never those of others, whom to their own master must stand or fall.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
One way to shortcut our way out of a tedious debate on lines and borders.

Whatever side we take, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Let this be the rule on both sides.

Out of love for your sisters, men watch your eyes.

Out of love for your brothers, sisters watch your dressing.

The rule of love will bring sharpness and clarity to the grey areas and help draw the borderlines without endless impositions of tedious rules. Love will keep it from being a burden for men to cut off hands and gouge out eyes, and will make it a joy for a woman to take due care in preserving modesty.

However, I take G's point as generally referring to what COVID has exposed. We take such care of our own bodies, but it shames how much we watch against more dreadful things. That's a point not to be passed over quickly.

I frankly fear that that lesson has not been learned.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Also, they need to be attractive--they ought to be attractive. I live with four ladies in my house, and I know that looking pretty is very important to them--it's in their God-given nature.
What does the bible prescribe as where true beauty if to be found for women (1 Timothy 2:9-10)? I am speaking as a man who also is also married and has 3 daughters. Yes we should take care of our bodies and have good hygeine, but as I am sure you know women and young girls can fall into a trap of thinking their worth is in their physical looks. Hence, the reason Paul is likley addressing the matter anyways. Physical attractivess is relative, just ask your guy friends what they find atractive and you will get different answers. However, true beauty is not relative as it is governed by something unchanging.... seeking godliness. In other words, the Fruits of the Spirit as He (The HS) works santification in the lives of our families. True beauty is found in God and since the fall our outer garments are their to remind us of our shame. God tells us what is beautiful and attractive and that is what I hope to instill in my girls, as I am sure you do as well brother.

There is a balance to be sure, which I think you are seeking to state, but the author speaks to both women AND men. To be fair, the comment about Harrassment was sobering and thought-provoking, but I think it was meant to shock and was stated by a women. Many reformers and puritans could also be quoted and painted as "unfriendly" on this matter (of course I diagree), but I wanted to share someone modern considering our context with canceling servives for this Influenza Pandemic. As CV-19 has proven, we, both men and women, can and do make an idol of our physical looks and well-being.

Btw...your girls don't have to wear dresses while swimming to be modest. But that does NOT mean it's time to break out the swimsuits that cover as much as undergarmets or that were showcased in Baywatch. They make very loose fitting wet suits that we have found helpful both for modesty and UV pretection as we are a house of gingers. We get compliments and request for where to buy all the time while we are in public. We also very much sympothize with it being difficult to find modest clothing for young girls, but it is certainly not impossible and like most things in the Christian life takes diligence.:detective:

Btw, @RPEphesian is absolutely correct regarding my intent.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Modesty is good and commendable and beautiful. I would certainly say something, gently, if I thought my wife or daughter were dressing immodestly.

But it seems there's always someone (usually a man) who wants to turn the beauty of modesty into a burden (usually on women). Often, he will have a definition of modesty that's stricter than that of most people around him, so that the burden becomes difficult to meet or the "rules" become uncertain or hard to understand. We must realize that having godly love for one another is not just about avoiding sexual lust; it also means not turning gifts that are meant to be beautiful into unfair, unclear, or unmeetable burdens on them.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I am reading Robert Rollock's commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:3ff (who can read such a passage without shuddering?) and came across this observation:

Thy body is dearer bought, nor al the vessels in this earth: it is bought with the precious blood of Christ; fy on thee, who pollutes and defiles the body, which is bought with so precious a blood. Aske some men and say to them; why defilest thou thy body? He will answer, My body is my own. But, I say to thee, thy body is not thy own, it is Christ's, he has bought it with his precious blood; if it be not Christ's, it is the Devil's, and he shall possesses it in the end. And therefore, seeing, that body of thine is the Temple of the holy Spirit, bought with the blood of Christ, keep it in holiness and honour: …

Robert Rollock, Lectures upon the first and second Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (Edinburgh: Robert Charteris, 1606), p. 169.
 

Jonathco

Puritan Board Freshman
An excellent discussion so far. The larger point has been made here already and I heartily agree with it: we stay home and quarantine to avoid contamination from a deadly virus that kills the body, yet we all-too-often take a passive approach to sin, which kills eternally.

Out of love for your sisters, men watch your eyes.

Out of love for your brothers, sisters watch your dressing.

The rule of love will bring sharpness and clarity to the grey areas and help draw the borderlines without endless impositions of tedious rules. Love will keep it from being a burden for men to cut off hands and gouge out eyes, and will make it a joy for a woman to take due care in preserving modesty.
@RPEphesian said it perfectly.

We don't need forced modesty laws; we need transformed hearts and minds that see sin for what it is and desire to protect and exhort our brothers and sisters.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Good Morning,

I had another reading this morning by Robert G. Spinney. I wanted to share it below especially for those who may have thought Spinney went a little too far (@nickipicki123 & @Ben Zartman ). I only share and post again to try and help. I think in the below excerpt you will find him very balanced in his understandling of modesty and the Word of God. The full excerpt is wonderfu, but if your feathers were ruffled by the OP, I think even the first couple paragraphs below will show you the man has some godly wisdom and discerment in wirtting. I hope all enjoy as I found the read very edifying. The exerpt was listed in my Theology of the Family book (almost finished) and is from Mr. Spinney's book entititled Dressed to Kill.:detective:

Creating a list of approved and unapproved clothing is a remedy that can be worse than the disease. I will explain. Sometimes God provides specific Bible commands and then clearly states how they are to be applied. But sometimes God gives principles and expects His people to make prayerful, Spirit-led, and Word-informed applications for themselves. With regard to clothing, God does the second. He does not give us exact wardrobe regulations; instead, He gives us principles. In addition, there is some sense in which cultural values play a role in determining if specific kinds of apparel are proper, modest, and discreet. The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter concluded his strong plea for modest clothing with a needed caution: “Custom and common opinion do put much of the signification upon fashions of apparel.”[120] In other words, the standards of modesty are somewhat (but not entirely) determined by cultural context. I am not persuaded that the Apostle Peter dressed immodestly when he was “stripped for work” while fishing (Joh 21:7). John Calvin wrote that, strictly speaking, clothing is an “indifferent matter” that makes it “difficult to assign a fixed limit, how far we ought to go.”[121]

Scriptural principles are eternally true; cultural applications may change. I can tell you with full Scriptural authority that God commands you to dress properly and decently, which means dressing in a manner consistent with God’s command to be holy even as God Himself is holy (1Pe 1:16). God requires you to dress modestly, which means you should not push the limits of moral acceptability when it comes to clothing. You are to dress discreetly, which means you must restrain your fleshly passions when it comes to apparel. You must not tempt others to sin with your clothing. In short, you must bring your wardrobe under the Lordship of Christ. “This at least will be settled beyond all controversy,” said Calvin, in words immediately following his recognition that we must be cautious regarding specific clothing applications, “that everything in dress which is not in accordance with modesty and sobriety must be disapproved.”[122]

As believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit and having minds transformed by the Bible, God calls us to apply these “modesty principles” to our daily living.

Some protest that these non-applied principles are insufficient. However, we should realize that there are several problems with creating specific and mandatory dress codes. To begin with, I suspect that most readers of this [article] affirm (as do I) the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency: the Bible is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness. Yet that same Bible consistently deals with the issue of modest clothing on the level of principle. The Bible itself does not provide us with a specific dress code. Apparently, the Holy Spirit deemed it not only adequate but best that God’s Word speak to clothing issues on the level of principle. I am reluctant to go beyond what the Holy Spirit has done; I am reluctant to say that God’s principles regarding modesty are insufficient. To be sure, pastors should suggest possible applications of these principles. God’s servants must help God’s people apply God’s Word to real-life situations. I shall make such suggestions below.

Nevertheless, only God’s principles are perfect and morally binding, while my personal applications of those principles may be incorrect. God’s Word is infallible, but my applications of His Word are not. Immodest clothing is a problem, but it is also a problem if I go beyond the inspired Word of God and require men to obey my uninspired applications. What follows is an attempt at practical guidance in this area. These are suggestions: they are not commandments on the level of “thus saith the Lord.” Do not regard them as extrabiblical rules, but rather as possible applications of biblical principles. Their author is a fallible man, a man who is also a father, husband, and redeemed-but-still-sinful Christian.
For the full excerpt with his applications (which he states are suggestions and not the Rules of the Bible) see here: https://www.chapellibrary.org/read/mappfg
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
And here, since it was expressed in this thread and I have asked the same:

Beware of the “show me exactly where the line is” fallacy. Some Christians make the modest clothing issue more difficult than it needs to be. They think they must possess precise criteria whereby they can determine whether any given piece of clothing is modest or immodest. “I must know exactly where the line is,” they think. “If I cannot know exactly what distinguishes modest from immodest clothing, then I cannot render any clothing judgments at all.”

Thinking like this is logically flawed. It is simply not true that we must know exactly where a line is in order to know if something is clearly over the line. I do not know exactly where the U.S.-Canada border exists, but I know that I am clearly located on the U.S. side. I do not know exactly where the line exists between good singing and bad singing, but I know that my daughter is clearly on the good side of the line and I am clearly on the other side of it. In many areas of life, we do not know exactly where lines exist and yet understand their approximate locations…I cannot provide a precise definition of immodest clothing that will enable us to know exactly where the line is between modesty and immodesty. But I know immodesty when I see it. In other words, we do not need to know exactly what criteria distinguishes proper from improper clothing. “Modest clothing” and “immodest clothing” are not two clearly defined categories, and it is sometimes unclear whether a specific clothing item falls into one category or the other. A third category exists: clothing that is neither unambiguously modest nor obviously immodest. But the presence of a third “not sure about it” category need not prevent us from concluding that some clothing is undeniably immodest while other clothing is safely consistent with our Christian testimony. As for the questionable clothing that is neither clearly immodest nor clearly modest: recall the word [shamefacedness] in 1 Timothy 2:9 means a humble reluctance to trespass the boundaries of what is morally appropriate, a reluctance that makes the believer not bold when it comes to “testing the limits” of right behavior.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Good Morning,

I had another reading this morning by Robert G. Spinney. I wanted to share it below especially for those who may have thought Spinney went a little too far (@nickipicki123 & @Ben Zartman ). I only share and post again to try and help. I think in the below excerpt you will find him very balanced in his understandling of modesty and the Word of God. The full excerpt is wonderfu, but if your feathers were ruffled by the OP, I think even the first couple paragraphs below will show you the man has some godly wisdom and discerment in wirtting. I hope all enjoy as I found the read very edifying. The exerpt was listed in my Theology of the Family book (almost finished) and is from Mr. Spinney's book entititled Dressed to Kill.:detective:



For the full excerpt with his applications (which he states are suggestions and not the Rules of the Bible) see here: https://www.chapellibrary.org/read/mappfg
The excerpt quoted perfectly agrees with what I posted--I did not read the link to see his specific suggestions. My point has always been that the Bible only gives principles for modesty because time and place and situation necessitate different applications. I only speak up about this matter because too often I have seen a well-meaning zeal for modesty taken to the point of tyranny, and burdens laid on the consciences of God's people that God has not laid there, and entire Lord's Day sermons telling women they may not wear trousers. There is need for much instruction in this area, but there is need for guarding against legalistic tyranny on one side and licentiousness on the other. If we as men spent as much energy guarding our hearts and watching unto prayer as we did trying to make lists of how low the neck, how high the hem, or how tight the cloth may be for our sisters, we might all be in a better state.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Vincent Alsop -
"Direction III. Follow no fashions so fast, so far, as to run your estates out at the heels: Tuo te pede metire! Costly apparel is like a prancing steed: he that will follow it too close, may have his brains knocked out for his folly; or rather his empty skull shattered; for the brains are supposed to have gone long before. Advise first with conscience, what is lawful; then with your purse, what is practicable. Consult what you may do, and next what you can do. Some things may be done by others, which you may not do; and there are some things which you might lawfully do, if you could conveniently do them. All things (indifferent) are lawful in themselves; but all things are not expedient to some, under some circumstances; and what is not expedient, so far as it is not so, is unlawful.

If you will drink by another man’s cup, you may be drunk when he is sober; and if you will clothe at another man’s rate, you may be a beggar, when he feels not the charge. But how many have run themselves out of their estates, into debt; and from the height of gallantry, sunk to the depth of poverty; forced either into a jail, or out of their country, whilst they would strain to keep pace with a fashion that was too nimble and fleet for their revenues?
"

Sermon: http://headwatersbaptistchurch.org/the-family/the-sinfulness-of-strange-apparel
 

Casiodoro

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8-9, "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire." Men and women are morally equivalent, but men can use their physical strength wrongly and women can use their beauty wrongly. Any approach to the topic should emphasize moral equality but at at the same time recognize that men and women have different strengths and different temptations. Unfortunately, most conversations I've heard in Christian circles seem to be based on the unspoken, unrecognized principles of radical sameness of men and women and the moral inferiority of men, which are principles derived from the worldly culture around us. Here's a mental test: (1) A man in the congregation sometimes hugs the women in what some ladies feel is a less-than-brotherly way. Would it be appropriate for a male leader in the congregation to take him aside and explain that he should maintain a little more distance so as not to lead to misunderstanding? (2) An attractive woman in the congregation comes to church in short-shorts and tank top, and you notice that a number of men seem to be examining the light bulbs or the floor boards when she is nearby. Would it be appropriate for a female leader in the congregation to take her aside and suggest that her attire might be a bit distracting to some men? Would there be any debate in your congregation about Number 1? Would there be any debate in your congregation about Number 2?
 
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