The problem with these questions is that they are based on what is culturally and socially acceptable, which changes from place to place and from decade to decade. In our culture we see nothing wrong with having close friends of the opposite sex. However, in biblical times a woman couldn’t remove the veil from her face for anyone other than her husband. In the Western world, women often go out of their way to get a man’s attention. In the Middle Eastern countries, women walk several paces behind the men and try to go unnoticed. Today American and European women want to know how short their skirts, shorts, or tops can be, but it wasn’t that long ago that the issue of open-toed shoes was creating quite the scandal among Christians. Could you imagine a sandal scandal in your church today?
Therefore, a list of laws about what women of integrity can and can’t wear, should and shouldn’t do and say, and so on, isn’t the answer. What we need is a standard of sexual integrity that will withstand the test of time as well as apply to all women of all cultures. But how can we develop a set of rules that are timeless, broad, and all-inclusive?
The answer lies not in legalism but in Christian love. Of the plethora of rules and regulations set out in the Old Testament, God boiled them all down to just ten commandments. Then in the New Testament, Jesus reduced all those laws down to only two. If we can simply learn to live by these two commandments, we can live a life of sexual integrity.
These two laws are explained when Jesus responded to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Jesus was saying that the law isn’t what is important. Love is what is important. If we love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves (in that order), then we can live far above any set of rules or regulations. We have freedom to live apart from any legalistic standards when we live by the spirit of love. Paul echoed this form of “freedom with responsibility” when he wrote:
“Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Paul is saying that you can do most anything, but it isn’t always in your best interest or in the interest of others. Focus not on what is “allowed,” but on what is best for all involved. How can we apply this freedom to sexual integrity? Pick any issue and sift it through this “law vs. love” filter:
- While is it lawful for a married woman to flirt with a man, is it a truly loving thing to do? While it is lawful for a single woman to flirt with a married man, is it the loving thing to do? (Will it benefit him in a righteous way?)
- There is no law against flattering clothes, but is our motive in wearing them to build others up or to build up our ego?
- We have freedom of speech in this country, but are the words we choose in the best interest of the men we speak to or do they support our own private agenda?
- Do our thoughts seek the highest good for others, or do they serve our own dysfunctional needs and emotional cravings?
- Is the attention and affection we may want to express to a man going to edify him or cause him to stumble and fall into temptation?
We must look beyond the movements to the motivations behind our actions. By doing this, we no longer have to concern ourselves with the law because we are acting by a higher standard, a standard of love.
Excerpted from Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.