Over the past couple of weeks I have seen a couple of blog posts on various Christian websites attacking the bikini. Posts urging girls to avoid wearing bikinis when they go to the beach at the summer, as otherwise guys won’t be able to resist the temptation to lust. I want to take a different angle. I want to suggest that bikinis are not the problem.
I mean, it is a bit crazy when you think about it. If the solution to prevent guys lusting is a less revealing swimsuit, then what makes a one piece swimsuit ok? Speaking as a guy, I have seen people wear both one piece swimsuits and bikinis, with the only real exception being that one piece swimsuits cover the abdomen area. They both cling to the same curves. But if keeping the abdomen covered is going to stop guys lusting, why stop there? Why not cover the arms and legs too? And why stop there? Why not have segregated beaches, so that guys don’t even have to see girl’s faces at the beach. If you really want to cut out lust you’d buy in to that, right?
You see I think the bikini haters, while good minded and well intended, are approaching things wrong. Surely if the problem is guys being tempted to lust, the answer isn’t to force girls to cover up more (as that starts a slippery slope that ends in a burqa). Surely the answer is to address the heart of the issue, which, I believe, is the heart.
We live in a society that tells us the sole reason that God created woman was to be eye candy (actually, that isn’t strictly true, we live in a society that tells us women evolved from monkeys to be eye candy, but that is a matter for another day…). We live in a society in which guys are told to expect, even demand, bodily perfection from women. A society where sexy is used as a sales tactic. A society in which peer pressure and apps like snapchat encourage the spread of intimate photos as part of a normal dating relationship. We live in a society that puts absolutely no value on purity. Many of the most popular movies and songs take the attitude that girls are second rate, and only exist for guys’ enjoyment, to pleasure men. And in the midst of this we expect Christian guys to remain pure, to “Fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. [To] think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8. An impossible task, right?
Jesus had this saying for impossible tasks. In Matthew 19:26 he tells the disciples “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” With God, everything is possible. Everything. Even purity of thought. Even avoidance of lust.
In Galatians 5 Paul talks about the battle for control of our lives. There is a struggle going on between our old sinful nature, and the Holy Spirit. When we let our sinful nature control our lives the following evil results are present – “sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure” (Gal 5:19). “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). For Paul, purity isn’t a matter of what your eye sees. Purity is a matter of who is controlling your heart.
If we want to avoid impure thoughts, if we want to “run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22), the answer isn’t demanding girls cover up more. Because that just addresses the immediate cause of the temptation, not the core root. The quest for purity goes deeper than surface level swimwear. It is a battle that needs to be waged in our hearts. We need to surrender to the Holy Spirit. We need to let Him control our hearts, and fill us with new desires. Desires for purity rather than lustful pleasures. As Paul continues in verses 24-25 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
This summer, let’s not blame the bikini when we find ourselves caught up in lustful thoughts. Let’s look to the deeper problem, the heart issue, and focus on addressing that, through prayer and absolute surrender to the Holy Spirit’s power and control. And as lust isn’t just a Y chromosome issue, girls – please follow Paul’s advice too. And you never know – when you have surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control you may even find you no longer wish to wear a bikini to the beach…