Kings and Christian Leadership: An Introduction

ZahrtmannWhen it comes to contemporary Christian leadership material, experience has unfortunately lead me to expect two things: (1) sparing as well as shallow biblical exegesis and (2) an oversubscription to trendy business and management literature along with secular leadership principles. I previously wrote a post addressed to church leaders sounding a caution against worldly wisdom, considering the Bible’s language about wisdom contrast with God’s. One of my conclusions in that post was, “Wisdom in the New Testament comes from God by prayer, can be found in Scripture and empowers Christians for faithful service.” But much so-called Christian leadership seems unapologetically shaped by the world rather than the Word.

One of the reasons for what I have outlined above can be traced back to doubts over the sufficiency of Scripture. Of course, it would never be articulated as such. But it is evident in common and reductionistic approaches to the Bible. Some will say that the Bible informs our message but not our practice—after all, it was written for another time. Thus I’ve heard comments from pastors like, “We can change anything in church but the gospel.” Martin Kähler famously warned against the view of the Gospels that makes them into little more than passion narratives with long introductions. Are we guilty of treating the entire Bible as a passion narrative with an incredibly long introduction? Either the Bible is singularly a book about the gospel – as in Christ’s death and resurrection – or it is sufficient to equip God’s people for all of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Perhaps you think I am being unfair. Maybe you have heard talks and read books on leadership that drew on the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus). I hope that is true. I tried to develop some thoughts on leadership from 2 Peter, here. But when last did you hear about leadership from the Old Testament? When I recently sat down to write a paper on Christian leadership and Old Testament kingship I could think of only one passage that received anything more than short thrift: Exodus 18. In that chapter, Moses is overwhelmed by the needs of Israel. So Jethro, his father-in-law, urges him to appoint leaders to assist in the task. In other words, Moses delegated responsibility. But I find it hard to believe that all the Old Testament teaches about leadership is the necessity of delegation.

More than two thirds of the Bible is essentially passed over when Christian leadership is addressed. ‘Yes,’ you may retort, ‘That is because Israel was a theocracy not a church community. They had prophets, priests, kings and judges.’ Exactly. Despite Israel’s quite unique status, the nation was governed and lead by people. In fact, some scholars have gone as far as saying that Joshua through 2 Kings is primarily about leadership. If this is right, we must go beyond reductionistic approaches that consider how alike or unlike Christ those leaders were—how to they pointed to Christ in both their successes and failures. We are talking about a rich theology of leadership, where there is far more than principles for delegation to learn.

In the upcoming weeks I hope to draw out some theological principles regarding leadership, from 1 Kings 1-11. But I want to bring this post to an end with some points for reflection, tying back to my opening paragraph. Leadership in Old Testament Israel was meant to be markedly unlike that of the nations surrounding her. There is plenty of material dealing with kingship and politics from the ancient near East, and the Old Testament stands apart in significant ways. This should immediately raise concerns over Christian leadership that draws from and is shaped by the world’s view of leadership. One of the ways Israel was meant to distinct was in the manner of her leaders. Note that when Israel implore Samuel for a king they ask, “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). There are at least two problems with their request, the first is explicit and the second implicit. Firstly, Yahweh says, “They have rejected me from being king over them” (8:7). Secondly, Yahweh describes what kind of king they will receive (8:9-17), concluding, “In that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves” (8:18). A king chosen by the standards of other kings with rule in kind. The application for and warnings regarding Christian leadership are obvious.

It is not that the establishment of Israel’s monarchy caught Yahweh off guard. Consider Deuteronomy 17:18-20, “And when [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” In many ways, the king of Israel was barely distinguished from common Israelites. Sure he possessed a judicial office. But his kingship was not defined by pomp and power, the trappings typical of other monarchs (see Deuteronomy 17:14-17). At the end of the day, the king of Israel was under God’s law and he was required to set an example of fidelity, obedience and appropriate fear. Likewise, a Christian leader must be above reproach, evidently submissive to Scripture.

In a short biographical piece about the horror author H. P. Lovecraft, Michel Houellebecq said that Lovecraft is a visceral example of someone who succeeded in his work but failed at life. As I will argue in the upcoming posts, Solomon fits that description well. But this cannot be the case for Christian leaders, who are warned to watch both their life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). There is no succeeding at ministry but failing at the Christian life. I wonder if the growing appeal of Christian leadership material is that it presents a vision for ministry that is alluringly pragmatic— promising results and outputs based on inputs. But success in ministry, just as the shape of Old Testament kingship, is far more concerned about the life and beliefs of leaders than their successful strategies snatched from the world.

The Last Battle: To Live is Christ

The last battleA line found on more than one character’s lips in The Last Battle is, “All world’s draw to an end, except Aslan’s own country”. Death is not the end but a beginning. This is the moving conclusion to C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. On the last page we read, “And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before” (p767). 

C. S. Lewis’ prose is enviably delightful, but the truth he describes is even more desirable. Surpassing the previous books in terms of darker and adult themes, The Last Battle confronts its readers with death. Jewel’s words to Lucy are not fantasy: all things do draw to an end, even life itself. Towards the close of the novel we learn that the children died in a railroad accident (p743). That was how they came Narnia this last time. Only, once there it becomes apparent to them that there is still something greater to come. Perhaps, like Reepicheep, this explains Roonwit’s dying words, “all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no one is too poor to buy” (p717). Later, Tirian will face his own demise with similar grit, “His only thought now was to sell his life as dearly as he could” (p738).

This language and themes are predictably biblical. Life is something to spend, because something greater beyond this life is promised. More than that, we owe our life to someone other than ourselves. One of my favourite modern hymns puts it well, “The things of earth I leave behind / To live in worship of my king / His is the right to rule my life / Mine is the joy to live for him.” As the oft quoted line from Paul goes, “To live is Christ; to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I’ve seen this verse on more bookmarks than Philippians 4:13, which is saying something. But do we properly grasp the truth therein? I think the latter is more easily comprehended (see my post on Reepicheep and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). But what does the first half mean: “To live is Christ”? We could turn up numerous passages to answer that question, but let’s consider the autobiographical passages in Philippians 2.

Shortly after exhorting Christians to emulate Christ’s humble and sacrificial service, we read, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (2:17). Here, ”To live is Christ”, is seen in Paul serving others. His life was gladly spent for someone other than himself. As Tirian faced death by either sword or the terrifying shed doorway he sought sell his life dearly. In light of the inevitable – death, the end of Narnia – he saw his life in a radically different light.

Coming back to Philippians, so too did Epaphroditus, “Honour such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me” (2:28-29). Likewise Timothy, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (2:20-21; compare 1:27-2:4). “To live is Christ” is not some kind of mystical, esoteric and inexplicable spirituality. It is fundamentally about the imitation of Christ through the service of others, even when that service is costly.

At one point in The Last Battle, Jill says to Eustance, as they wonder and discuss what will happen if they die in Narnia, “I was going to say I wished we’d never come. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. Even if we are killed. I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a Bath chair and then die in the end just the same” (p720). These are arguably the bravest words spoken by any character in Narnia. What freed Jill from clinging to her life? It was the knowledge that death would be gain. So she too would spend her final moments, before being thrown into the shed, fighting for Narnia and Aslan. Finally, at the close, we read, “Aslan no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were too great and beautiful that I cannot write them” (p767).

I imagine Lewis would agree with me saying: as wonderful as the conclusion to Narnia is, the reality it portrays is indescribable, infinitely glorious and satisfying—all we have ever desired. He describes the new Narnia as “deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know” (p760). For the Christian, death is indeed the most wonderful and incomparable gain. But when truly believe that it will transform how we live, “To live is Christ.” Like Paul, his juniors, and Lewis’ characters in The Last Battle, we must view our lives as things to be spent rather than clinging onto them. One of the clearest evidences that we know death is gain is when we live for Christ. When we pour ourselves out for others. When we die daily, in humble and sacrificial service of others. To live is Christ.

This post brings to an end a series of articles on C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. If you enjoyed this one then please check out the rest:

Should We Preach John 7:53-8:11?

Leonidas HerodotusImagine a Sunday morning at your local church. The band are leaving the stage while the reader makes her way up to the pulpit. She reaches the microphone and announces the passage, “This morning’s reading will be from Herodotus’ The Histories, 7:220-221.” After a brief pause, she says again, “The reading will be from Histories, book 7, verses 220 through to the end of 221.”

Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine the reading being so clearly prefaced, but this is a hypothetical situation. The reader continues, “You can find that on page 492 of our provided Herodotus, the 2003 Penguin edition.” After the passage is read your reader reminds the congregation, “This is the Word of God,” to which the congregation loudly respond, “Thanks be to God.” Then your pastor gets up, thanks the reader and begins, “Good morning Redeemer Church Muizenberg, today we will be continuing with our series in The Histories.” He introduces the three points from the passage just read:

  1. Leonidas had to persevere with his task
  2. Leonidas knew there was greater glory ahead
  3. Leonidas died to save his people

Unpacking these points from the text over the next 40 minutes, the pastor delivers a moving sermon on how the Christian must not give up, but keep striving forward. For we can know – as Leonidas did – that eternal glory and immortality is promised for those who persevere. Finally, all of this was achieved and secured for us by his prophesied death, which he went to willingly to save us. The problem that I hope you have with all of the above is that The Histories is not in the Bible. Sure, it might make for a great sermon. If I’m honest, I’m pretty pleased with my three points. Furthermore, if we ignore Leonidas, the sermon would be consistent with biblical truth. You could make all of those points from biblical texts. For all of these reasons, and a few more I will outline below, I think Herodotus’ Histories is a good analogy for why we should not preach John 7:53-8:11.

In a previous post on John 7:53-8:11, with the assistance of what is considered the best commentary on John’s Gospel ever written, I probed some of the concerns regarding this text’s authenticity and its inclusion in John. The first significant problem that must be faced is that the short narrative is found in a variety of textual locations, in both John and Luke. This raises serious questions over its reliability and Johannine pedigree. If we put that aside, because it does actually appear after John 7 more than anywhere else, we must answer another serious concern: the literary shape and argument of John 7 through John 8. In both chapters Jesus is involved in heated conversations with those who rejected his messianic claims, particularly the Pharisees. These two chapters of John are remarkably polemical, creating a quite unique unit within John’s Gospel. This makes the story about the woman caught in adultery awkwardly out of place—a misfit. Added to this, and here we must defer to Greek scholars, in just 12 verses we encounter a handful of constructions and expressions found nowhere else in John. To explore these arguments in more detail see my linked post (above).

When all of the above is considered, there is still no consensus about whether this story is part of John or Luke. The evidence we have is inconclusive. Despite the growing agreement that this passage is  actually native to Luke’s Gospel, based on its literary nature, the weight of documentary evidence still places it in John. This uncertainty is not inconsequential, especially for expository preaching that places a high value on literary context. Michael Gorman writes in Elements of Biblical Exegesis, “Context is so crucial to interpretation that it is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that if you alter the context of a word or sentence or paragraph, you also alter the content of that text.” Therefore where we place this short episode shapes how it should be read and understood. The insurmountable problem is we are not even sure it is currently in the correct Gospel.

Perhaps you can put these issues aside. Maybe you are hanging onto the fact that John 7:53-8:11 is historical. After all, significant and reputable New Testament scholars believe the evidence we have indicates that John 7:53-8:11 really took place. It bears the marks of an authentic historical event. The problem is, the church does not gather to hear about history but from God. Mentions of Jesus of Nazareth can be found in Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger and Tacitus, all of whom wrote towards the end of the 1st century CE, which is likely the dating for John. But we don’t preach sermons from those texts. I’ve heard the argument that, in addition to being historical, John 7:53-8:11 resonates with so much of Jesus’ teaching. But then so does Seneca the Roman philosopher and statesman. Historical pedigree is not the mark or measure of canonicity.

Should we preach John 7:53-8:11? No. You would not read the authors mentioned above and exegete their writings as Scripture, as God’s Word to his people. Despite liking the outline, I would not preach my three point sermon from Herodotus’ Histories. Similarly, which has been the contention of this post, we should not treat or handle John 7:53-8:11 as Scripture—this is not because of questions over its credibility but rather its canonicity.

Doodle: Abortion and an Unborn Baby Rhino

PoachingI am unaware of a single word that describes the leveraging of misfortune and tragedy to bolster your position in an argument. Though there are plenty of fitting adjectives that describe this sort of thing: insensitive, shameless, selfish and entrepreneurial—the worst kind. Just a month ago we saw two gut-wrenching mass shootings in America. To add to that devastating misfortune, many treated the national heartbreak as a stage to float gun law reform. American politics is not really my domain, and it certainly is not my topic for this post. It merely serves as a vivid example of the thing I hope to avoid doing in this post. In fact, my intention is not much to draw an analogy as much as it is to highlight a stark inconsistency. Here goes.

Almost two years ago, in November 2017, photos emerged of a rhinoceros (or rhino) that had been poached. The poachers  were disturbed while attempting to saw off her horn. For those living outside of South Africa, this is a regrettably common occurrence. So what was different about this incident? Soon after pictures emerged of the dead rhino it was reported that she had been pregnant. Tragically, not much later, pictures could be found online not only of the dead mother but of her unborn calf, which also died. It is an awful story. Poaching is devastating. Those pictures moved me in a way that previous photos of poached animals had not. By now, I am sure you can see where this post is heading.

You can still find the article on social media and news sites, with it resurfacing every couple of months, always met with unrestrained rage and vitriol. Here is a sampling of comments I have read on photos of the unborn rhino as well as articles:

  • ‘This is just wrong. Heartbreaking story’
  • ‘May those killers burn in hell, because that is where they will go some day’
  • ‘I hope the perpetrators are found and hanged in public for all to see’
  • ‘I hope that before they kill these poachers they murder their families in front of them’

Now I am not a poacher-sympathiser. Scrolling through some of the back and forth in comments sections has made me far too afraid. Though I will unapologetically say that the life of a rhino is not worth the life of a human. I want to make one simple point about this tragic event and the voluminous keyboard backlash.

Let me first state my point in the form of a question: how can we place a higher value on the life of an unborn rhinoceros than we do on unborn humans? In all the comments I read and conversations I have had about the Pilanesberg poaching not one person raised questions over whether the unborn rhino was actually a rhino. Sure, without the cow’s body it – evidently – could not survive. It hadn’t taken its first breathes or steps, nor did it express independence or autonomy. But the shrill outrage online never asked if this was actually an unborn rhino. To put it positively: everyone agreed that what made this tragedy worse was that it involved the death of not just one but two rhinos: mother and calf. The unborn status of the latter did not feature in the story as an unfortunate subplot—it made the headline. Yet, in the present debates around abortion, some of the most commonly plied rhetoric by the pro-choice side is that the unborn foetus is not human. The tragic poaching event from 2017 reveals how grossly inconsistent and shamelessly convenient such a position is.

Does your heart break when you see the photos or hear the story of the pregnant cow and her calf, killed by poachers at Pilanesberg? Mine does. For these kinds of happenings reveal the darker and rapacious side of humanity, as well as the low value we place on creation. But if that story upsets you, abortion should outrage you. Because it reveals the selfish ease with which we murder unborn humans. If poaching is evil, abortion is incomparably evil. For human life is priceless.

Men’s Sexual Sins and Modesty

Last week I posted an article titled: Immodesty and Violence Against Women. It was prompted by the important conversations currently taking place in South Africa. Because my sphere of influence is largely limited to the church, my aim was to challenge Christian men with regard to self-control. I deliberately skirted addressing women on the topic of modesty, because those are utterly distinct conversations. As I have discussed the post online, and in person, I have realised that an idea implicit to my previous article was this: we need to unhitch conversations about sexual sin from modesty and immodesty.

Victorian ladyMost people commenting on my post agreed that men need to be self-controlled, however many were then quick to add: women must dress modestly; they must be considerate. This revealed that many Christians believe sexual sin and a women’s choice of clothing is connected. I honestly do not think that there is a short path from that mindset to blaming rape – even if only partially – on sexually provocative and revealing clothing. ‘She was asking for it.’ My friend Anja noted that men laying the responsibility for their failings at women’s feet has been the pattern since Genesis 3. She wrote, “It is human nature to pass on the blame for our own sin…we all want to take the easy way out and try make others responsible.”

Gillian commented on my article, “I’ve felt more exposed wearing a full length dress and having a guy pass comments than I have when wearing shorts and t-shirt. The dress wasn’t tight fitting.” When Jesus addressed lust he said, “If your right eyes causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). Note that it is the eye and not her exposed flesh that is the cause of sin. In fact, the eye motif runs throughout Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount. Later he said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (6:22). That is a notoriously difficult verse. But in this context its meaning seems fairly straightforward. Finally, Jesus delivered a warning against judging others, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eyes, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (7:3). Brothers, stop looking for the speck of immodesty in your sister’s eye when your own eyes are jammed with the log of lust.

Gillian went on to write that the church’s narrative about sexual sin needs to change. Her point speaks directly to other comments I interacted with online. One man said, “Paul makes it clear: men and women are, and will always be the same irrespective of culture and time. Men will always look at a woman and women will always dress alluringly.” But as Gillian rightly says, “We keep telling men that they are lust-filled people. This may have truth in it. But that is not their whole identity.” The problem is we treat men as if sexual sin is inevitable; as if temptation can only avoided if women would dress more considerately, or with modesty. Surely Paul meant what he wrote, ‘Do not let sin reign in your body, to make you obey its passions…For sin will have no dominion over you’ (Romans 6:12, 14). So Gillian concludes, “I can look at a guy on the beach and ‘control my urges and thinking,’ because I haven’t been told for my entire life that that’s how women will see and react to men.”

My friend Anja also reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:2, where Paul exhorts men to treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters, in all purity. She then wrote, “This exhortation is not conditional upon what the woman is wearing.” I agree with another point Anja made: the problem with the phrase ‘violence against women’ is that it has no subject and it is in the passive voice. For those of you who are not linguists, she means that it is unclear who is doing the violence (subject). Similarly, sexual sin is something that is done; it does not merely occur. And in the vast majority of cases of sexual assault the perpetrators are men and the victims women. Yet, as she writes, “If all men loved women, as commanded in Scripture, we would not have the problem.” Taking her point together with Gillian’s, men must correct the narrative about themselves and their view of women. My male identity does not necessitate sexual temptation, while women are not sexual objects. This much should be obvious.

I want to bring this post to an end by returning to the idea of modesty. Legalism about modest dress has hampered the church for centuries, with a wide range of unbiblical definitions and demands made. Yes, when Paul exhorted women to be modest he prohibited braided hair, gold or pearls, and costly attire (1 Timothy 2:9). I do not think these were the 1st century equivalents of tight jeans, lipstick and low-cut tops. As my friend Lori wrote to me in an email, “Clothing, jewellery, hair, and makeup are just the means to an end.” They are the search for attention and the desire to be noticed—to stand apart from the rest and even to be sexually alluring. Thus Lori said, “You have to change the heart before the wardrobe. Otherwise we’re just covering up the problem.”

Stephen, who lives in Ghana, shared from his own church experience, “Older women come to church with cloths to cover up younger woman whom they feel are dressing immodestly. This can be very embarrassing for the younger women, and in some instances they end up leaving the church.” Here we must tread carefully. Like the friend I mentioned in my previous post: feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment typically follow the charge of immodesty. Lori asked me, “Should a woman be shamed to the benefit of men in church?” Is the gaze of his uncontrolled eyes more important than her feelings, her decency? As I briefly unpacked 1 Timothy 2 in my previous article, it seems that modesty is more about an attitude than attire. But as Lori wrote, when we turn modesty into a legalistic dress code, “Women must dress to a standard of modesty that differs for everyone but must somehow be divined lest they face public shaming.”

Dressing modestly is an embattled and fluid cultural issue. Therefore in addressing it we must go deeper than exposed flesh to expose the heart. So Lori concluded, “There’s a right way to address it—not by singling out and shaming individual women, but from the pulpit so that everyone can assess their own hearts in the safety of the church body.”

Immodesty and Violence Against Women

Skinny jeansLast year a friend of mine was asked by a male pastor to change, because her jeans were too tight. Yes, you read correctly. Her jeans were too tight. To my knowledge – and please correct me if I am wrong – no man has ever been rebuked for wearing pants that were too tight. Even though we have lived through the advent of skinny jeans and ministry of Carl Lentz. But on a more serious note, recent events in South African have rocked the nation. Violence against women is once again generating considerable outcry—and rightly so. The hashtag #AmINext indicates widespread fear and anxiety among women. This has done for unspoken fear what #MeToo did for silent sufferers. But what can the church, especially Christian men, do?

To answer that question I want to return to my friend’s wardrobe rebuke. It is true that the New Testament exhorts women to dress respectably and modestly (1 Timothy 2:9). As the NIV translates that verse, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety.” It is not an overstatement to say that this is one of very few New Testament verses that directly deals with what women wear. Though instead of prescribing a timeless dress code, Christians are exhorted to adorn themselves with good deeds in keeping with their fear of God (2:10). In fact, the word typically translated as ‘modest’ in 2:9 appears nowhere else in the New Testament. The other words, respectable and self-controlled or propriety, are not usually concerned with apparel but our attitude. Therefore, in passing, I think these verses do address a women’s choice of clothing but the emphasis is on her own heart. Others can debate the details.

Before you light your metaphorical torches, let me make a crucial proviso: under no circumstances is someone’s choice of clothing to blame for someone else’s sin—least of all when it comes to the disgusting realities of sexual assault and rape. Martin Luther famously said, ‘You can’t stop birds flying over your head but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.’ When men objectify women that is a choice, from lusting after them to lewd comments about them, long before violent and sexual crimes are committed against them. It is deeply unsettling in South Africa, even in some churches, that the question about what she was was wearing is close behind a tragic story of sexual assault. To use another analogy, consider crimes of passion. If I come home and find my wife in bed with another man and kill both of them, we can be assured that the judge or jury will not moderate my sentence because my actions were motivated. That is stupid—so is tying rape and sexual assault, or any sin for that matter, to her attire.

But what if a woman is dressed immodestly, by your own definition or according to your culture? In other words, what if you find yourself in the same shoes as the aforementioned pastor  was in. Firstly, the New Testament has a lot to say to you before you say anything to her. “Urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6). For this is what God’s gracious salvation trains us to be: “self-controlled, upright, and godly” (2:13-14; also see 2 Peter 1:6; 1 Corinthians 9:25). Contrast with the one mention of modesty in the New Testament, I lost track of how many times we are exhorted to be self-controlled. Greek even has more than one word for it. You may be familiar with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and modesty (Galatians 5:22-23). Except that the list stops at self-control. In fact, Paul goes on, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Notice, that Christian maturity is less about covering up flesh as it is about crucifying your own flesh—which is New Testament language for sin. 

Finally, did that pastor have the right to challenge her about her tight jeans? No, I do not think that he did. At most, if I am reading 1 Timothy 2 correctly, he could ask her to consider whether she thought she was being immodest. Let me say again, how we define modesty is both cultural and personal. In other words, immodesty is rooted more in the desired outcomes for what you wear than a prescribed dress code. Let’s not be legalists. In the Christian church there is only one occasion I can think of when I might be permitted to speak to a Christian women about what she is wearing. That is in the case that I am the weaker brother, either in terms of sin or my conscience. However, in that conversation, I must admit that the problem lies with me. Not her.  But Christian men, be self-controlled. Before a woman is made to feel guilty about being immodest, confess your own sin and lack of self-control. Men need to do far more repenting in this area than women need to do concerning their choice of clothing.