10 July 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy.
I’m 16 years old and I’m trying to strengthen my relationship with Christ.
I really want to know if wearing jeans is a sin for women.
Signed, Hard Decisions
Aunty realizes that you are from another part of the world, with cultural mores that Aunty might not be aware of. Where Aunty lives, most women (including Aunty herself) wear jeans with no detrimental effect on their relationship with Jesus. Short of being intentionally immodest—and Aunty thinks jeans can be quite modest apparel—what you wear should be, in the best of worlds, a personal choice.
But it’s a little more complicated than that. Because what makes something right or wrong has at least a little to do with the culture you live in, and your own attitude toward people who might not think as you do.
The apostle Paul spends a lot of time on the cultural relativity of right and wrong. In Romans 14 (the topic here is what you eat, but the principle is the same) Paul says,
I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
If you’re doubtful about your motive for dressing in a certain way, or if you feel self-conscious, you should dress in such a way that you’re not left feeling spiritually uncomfortable. It could also be that out of consideration for others you’ll choose not to dress a certain way lest people you love are offended—if your dear grandmother, for example, would be hurt by your wearing jeans, common sense would say you wear a dress when you visit her!
But let Aunty be clear: in this case you’re not changing your apparel choices because it’s a sin, but out of consideration for someone you love. The same might be true for how you dress when you go to church.
Paul tells the Corinthians,
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)
Of course, even this has its limits. If you are constantly adjusting your choices (in clothing or anything else) by what the most critical people around you think, you’ve become a slave to others. At some point, you may have to exercise the freedom you have in Christ—that is, you gently challenge them to “grow up” and pay attention to the more important things about you.
As Aunty said, where she lives there is no sin in wearing jeans. Nonetheless, in this (and other matters) Aunty tries not to destroy relationships with those she loves, nor convey something that others might misunderstand.
These kinds of matters are often a careful balancing act, and prayer will help you make the right choices.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—without identifying the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.