Let’s be clear: I have no problem with men and women building up their bodies. I work on that every day. There’s a problem with the pagan exhibitionism of the sport that worships a human ideal (idolatry). The human body isn’t shameful, but the biblical doctrine is that the privilege of seeing your body should be tightly restricted.
The Bible is unmistakably clear about this. If you are going to claim to follow Christ, then your presentation of your witness to the world includes humility and modesty in dress. You don’t call attention to yourself. That’s the whole point of what Paul was trying to show in 1 Timothy 2. That chapter starts with praying for your civil government regardless of their character. It’s how we approach the question of dealing with a hostile world. Pray for them and try to avoid getting in their way.
Then Paul says a part of this business of staying under the radar is for men to focus on praying to God. He uses words translated as “without wrath and doubting.” Seek the welfare of your political leaders; don’t get involved in hating them. Their true welfare is redemption in Christ. Until that happens, our prayers on their behalf include not getting involved in their concerns, which concerns are nothing at all like those of the Kingdom of Christ.
We need to understand how that ties into Paul’s comments about women being modest. What makes a woman beautiful as a testimony of God’s Kingdom? It’s not the ostentatious jewelry and haute couture. Everyone notices a fiery woman who makes a spectacle; this is not how you win hearts and minds to the Kingdom. Rather, what makes a woman beautiful is the heart-led way of being subject to their spiritual covering. Her identity and glory is seeking the glory of her covering and her God. Everyone’s identity is rooted in the Covenant of Christ.
Then Paul goes on to remind us that Adam, as Eve’s covering, was charged with making certain decisions for his household, while Eve was ill equipped for such things. Adam wasn’t deceived by Satan’s lies, he was just lazy. He stood condemned for not getting off his butt and protecting Eve from things that she didn’t understand. Women suffer a proclivity for things that will harm everyone. She has her input in things, but she is never to rule. She’s supposed to follow the lead of her covering elder in deciding what is good and evil. She’s wired to be flexible and cling to her man wherever the Lord moves him.
But this whole thing stands as a piece of a much bigger picture of people not drawing attention to themselves, but to the Lord. He gets all the glory. Strutting on stage in tiny pieces of cloth and flexing your muscles is not giving God the glory. You cannot participate in body building competitions and claim to give Christ the glory.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with fitness, male or female. I was given a firm command by God to pursue physical fitness, and I’m still faithful within the boundaries of what my aging and battered body will tolerate. But I don’t strut around exhibiting the results to impress anyone. His purpose excludes drawing attention to myself for this particular thing. Let people be impressed with consistent moral holiness, not my physical presentation — not by human might, but by His Spirit. It’s a lie of the Devil that covering yourself and avoiding attention can only be a matter of shame. Strutting your stuff is not the default. Rather, it’s a matter of boundaries: Who does God say is privileged to see my flesh? God’s list is very short.
Nothing we do will change the way the world does things. We have no interest in mounting a crusade to end the sport of bodybuilding. Let the sinners pursue their own interests. But please, stop fouling the name of Christ by claiming that He’s the one urging you to bring attention to what you can accomplish. It’s all about the glory of Our Lord, and His glory alone.
So: One of the peculiarities of Radix Fidem is avoiding clothing that calls attention to the flesh in any way. Some things you simply cannot hide, but we don’t call attention to ourselves, even when our mission and calling means getting up in front of a crowd to speak. It’s always about the Lord.
Paul’s message in 1 Timothy 2 isn’t about restrictions on women, but about keeping the focus on Christ. We need to seek the Lord to understand how much flesh exposure is too much.
Side note: We acknowledge that Muslims do have a clear understanding of feminine nature. Women love to be admired as beautiful, and they do suffer a potent lust for manly flesh. The truth is, women are more likely to stray than men. But Muslims make the mistake of believing men can be flawless, so that their practical solutions are an abomination to God.
We do not require women to hide under a big cloth sack. We believe the Scripture offers sufficient inhibition for both sexes without adding some massive hedge of strictures to protect the Word (like the Talmud). We believe in drawing some social boundaries, but that nothing will stop either men or women determined to sin. Rather, we structure our social habits to symbolize our characteristic weaknesses, as a reminder for those who sense the divine calling.
I’ve stated elsewhere that I believe in our context today in the USA, we should encourage both sexes to cover themselves from shoulder to shoulder, from the base of the neck down to the knees. That’s not a law; it’s just my own answer to the question. I offer it as one interpretation of how we can avoid showing too much. Don’t cause your brother or sister to stumble.