Open Letter to My Christian Sisters

by Stephen R. Bradd

This feature lesson is written by an unknown Christian woman. She addresses a subject that women in particular need to seriously consider, no matter what their age.

I came across an article recently that was published in the Firm Foundation almost exactly thirty years ago (October 4, 1977). Consequently, there is a reference or two that is somewhat dated. However, the article as a whole is outstanding and, might I add, just as relevant today as it was over a quarter of a century ago. Rather than me introduce the topic, let me simply share this powerful letter with you from the pen of an unknown Christian woman.

Dear beloved teenagers, mothers, and grandmothers:

I love you so much, and this is very difficult for me to write. I am so very tired. For so many years you haven't listened to what I've been trying to tell you. How many more years can I keep going? How much longer can I keep hiding things from my children and the other Christians?

I'm talking about my husband. He is looked up to by members of the church. He teaches a Bible class and attends all services and gospel meetings. He holds home Bible studies to convert people. He is hospitable and a very liberal giver. He has a respected job in the community. We have what I consider a beautiful home and fine children. He is handsome and has an outgoing personality. He is admired by many. He also commits adultery once every year or two. Wait before you pass judgment on this "hypocrite" until you finish reading my appeal.

We could be any one of perhaps 50% of the families in your congregation. I have talked with so many of these women and some of the men, and the problem is more prevalent than you may want to think. A lot of this problem--though not all of it--is kindled by something you just won't believe. Why won't you believe me when I bring it up in Ladies' Bible Class or in private comments? Why do you tell me I have a dirty mind or I'm a prude? I love you all, and I do as many good works as possible to show you this love, without taking precious time away from my family.

What I am getting at is this: Please, please stay away from my husband! I don't mean you physically should stay away, for we love your company. But I mean you sensually. He has enough of a problem without you fanning the fire. When we are at services or in each other's home, you wouldn't think of dressing indecently; you each teach against immodesty yourself sometimes. Yet you wear skirts above your knee, and I see his eyes move up. When he teaches a class, you sit immodestly, and he burns inside. You wear round-neck blouses that may be decent while standing up straight, but when you lean slightly, it gapes open for a fleeting moment for him to fill his eyes. You wear slacks that hug around your hips and abdomen, and his mind races.

Who are you? Sometimes I see you in Bible class. I see you when we worship our Father together. Sometimes you are even a deacon's or minister's wife. Once in a great while you are even an elder's wife. It hurts me to see what you are doing to yourself in the name of style and how I cry when I see what it does to my husband. If I try to say something to you tactfully, you are filled with righteous indignation or laugh and call me old-fashioned. So I go home and cry alone. The likelihood of his committing adultery with you is very slim, for you would be horrified at the suggestion. But you keep his mind in such a sexual turmoil because you are some of our closest friends sometimes. I know he will eventually give up trying to fight it off and will go to a woman not known to the church in order to hide his shame.

No, I am not an "old bag." I try to make myself as nice looking as possible at home as well as in public. I fix good meals. I try to keep cheerful. I feel I have always done most of the things mentioned in such books as Fascinating Womanhood. I am a good wife and dedicated mother; I work at it.

I also know for a fact that my husband is not the only one fighting this epidemic. The church at Corinth even suffered from it. I have asked other Christian men to help him, and once they see that I understand, they often admit that they have the same problem--sometimes under control, sometimes not. I've had preachers, elders, deacons, young men, and old men admit this. They seem relieved that at least one woman understands their burden. Often they can't tell their wives and daughters not to wear the revealing styles because they are ridiculed by them and other wives. So they keep it to themselves, and, as one preacher put it, "burn inside" because of the sinful passions they are so desperately fighting, with no sympathy from the women who bait them unwittingly.

Please, please listen to me! I have begged and pleaded in every way I know how. Our minister has too; and every time he does, you feel like starting a movement to get rid of him, or you say, "Those terrible women!" without realizing it is you too. You become frustrated and bitter at his false accusations that you are creating lustful thoughts in men. Keep reading, please. Don't cut me off.

I understand why you don't believe the men. I really do. Remember, I'm a woman too. You dress in the latest styles, with some of the characteristics mentioned earlier--maybe not all of them--simply because you like the styles. They are pretty. You enjoy the looks of approval from everyone--not just the men. Some fashion designers say that women actually dress for approval and admiration from other women. You think adultery is terrible. You think that only men with base morals would look at you lustfully. Some of you think, "Not me! There's nothing sexy about me--only my husband could think so. I'm overweight, I can't ever go to the beauty salon," and on and on.

The reason you get so angry at such suggestions about you is because you know deep in your heart that you are not creating lust. You know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. You feel you are being falsely accused, and it hurts you for anyone to think of you as less than pure. I know this is the way you feel, because that is the way I feel.

But the men do not believe it! Please get it through your head that men do not think like we do. Although it is possible for women to commit adultery in their hearts, Jesus specifically used men regarding His comments in Matthew 5:28. I don't believe that is an accident. Typically, women don't get aroused through the eyes like men do. Usually we get aroused through our ears--a man opening up his heart to us and telling us how special we are. Men are not that impressed by "sweet nothings." In fact, they often laugh at them. Their key is in what they see. They are enticed by what they see or by form-fitting suggestions. Jesus said a man commits adultery every time he sees a woman who looks sensual to him and he is unable to control his thoughts.

It seems like every time I say something to you about your hemline or neckline, you don't believe me. And every time I tell men that most women do not dress purposely to be a "tease," they don't believe me either. Men really do believe we women know exactly what we're doing and exactly what we're after. These are Christian men, too, remember. Why do you think our preachers get so hot under the collar when they preach on this subject? These men know something women don't know or understand. And since you don't feel that way, you refuse to believe men feel that way.

Years ago when we were first married and very young, my husband told me that the way a woman dresses tells men around her how she wants to be treated and whether she wants to be touched. If she is a tease, such as a Christian woman who lures and then shames men for having such dirty minds, he just stores those thoughts and goes to another woman eventually if he can't overcome those natural reactions. Men want women to look like women--to look feminine--but not to entice them. The comments are not printable that I've heard from men in restaurants watching waitresses with short skirts clean tables. But, here are some comments I've heard from Christian men:

Dear sisters, obviously you are not completely at fault when you dress questionably, not any more than a bottle of liquor offered to an alcoholic is completely at fault. I have learned in choosing clothing that does not look like I am "making an offer," "When in doubt, don't."

Do you understand a little better? Run a test if you like and watch the men when a woman with immodest apparel walks into a room. Watch them closely, and you'll see what I mean. We women will never understand completely how men feel, because we are not men and never will be; just as men will never really understand that most of us women don't intentionally entice them. We have to take each other's word for it, and take Jesus' word for it.

My last request is that you not try to guess who I am, or who my husband is. We are any one of several couples in your own congregation. Do not embarrass me or one of the others by asking, or even guessing to someone else. It is hard enough for us to hold our heads up without others knowing of our shame. When you see me a little depressed or moody, just smile, and I won't cry as much when I get home. If you suspect who I am, encourage me and talk to me about faith. And encourage my husband by making sure you are covered around him--be kind to him in this way. He will then think of you as a lady, a Christian lady, and we will both thank you for your godly influence.

With my love to you, from a struggling sister in Christ.

Friends, I believe this letter should be read and seriously considered by women of all ages repeatedly (from the pre-teen years on up). In my opinion, this female writer speaks the truth about an often neglected subject. Men and women are different in many ways, and they generally do not approach this issue from the same perspective. However, those who are wise will try to understand the view of the opposite gender and act accordingly (cf. Matt. 7:12). They will consider their own actions and make changes where needed.

Our Lord Jesus Christ stated in Luke 17:1,2 - "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him [or her] through whom they do come! It would be better for him [or her] if a millstone were hung around his [or her] neck, and he [or she] were thrown into the sea, than that he [or she] should offend one of these little ones." Women in particular must be aware of the influence their attire (or lack thereof) has upon the opposite gender. Shame on men for failing to control their thoughts, but shame on women also (whether they do it ignorantly or not) for making it difficult upon men to avoid mental impurity! If God will judge us for every idle word (cf. Matt. 10:36,37), can we really expect Him to ignore the way we dress--especially if such causes another to stumble?

God's desire for Christian women in the first century is still His desire today - "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (I Tim. 2:9,10). Do you dress modestly and moderately at all times when you are in public? The opposite gender is watching--and so is Almighty God!

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.