An Indian Christian perspective on ‘sexy’

An Indian Christian perspective on ‘sexy’

A well meaning forward is doing the rounds on WhatsApp. It is about a Christian grandmother teaching her grandchild the meaning of sexy, as she dresses to go to Church. Allow me to add a few of my thoughts on it below, after quoting the said forward.

LOOKING SEXY AND DRESSED TO KILL FOR CHURCH SERVICE

The following conversation took place between a grandmother n her granddaughter. “Grandma: Akosua, where are you going?

Akosua: Grandma, I am going to Church.

Grandma: Really? Please come n sit down n let’s talk for a minute before you go. I think we still have ample time before the Church Service begins? Don’t we?

Akosua: About an hour, Yes.

Grandma: The way you are dressed, in fact, you look very sexy.

Akosua: (Smiling) Thank you very much grandma. Grandma: Hmmm, Akosua, I can see you love that compliment. Please tell me, do you need someone to have sex with you?

Akosua: Ooh noo.. Grandma. Why this question?

Grandma: If you do not need someone to have sex with you, then, why do you dress ‘sexy’?

Akosua: There’s nothing to worry about, Grannie. I just want to…

Grandma: (cuts in) …dressed to kill, as usual! Akosua, a Godly girl should never feel proud or swollen-headed when someone tells her that she looks ‘sexy’. In fact it’s a very bad and insulting compliment. The intention of dressing sexy is to arouse men, That’s all. That’s the reason why prostitutes dress this way. They dress this way because they want someone to have sex with them n pay them. They do everything possible to ‘look sexy’ n attractive – not to just one person, but to the entire men in town! They expose, they wear things that will reveal all their endowed curves – just to ‘look sexy’ and attractive to men, for money. Please, Akosua, are you also trying to look that way so that you will be attractive to men for sex?

Akosua looked down, and was speechless.

Grandma: You are young, fit and attractive, although you are a Christian, yet you always look so worldly. When you dress like this to Church, the probability of bringing even the pastor down is very high. But remember that *’woe betide the one by whom a righteous man is made to fall…’* I know you can remember this scripture very well. Well, my beloved grand-daughter, I am done. You can now go.

Akosua : Thank you very much, Grandma. I have never looked at it like this before. From today onwards, I promise never to dress again ‘to look sexy’ . I will rather dress to look beautiful and glorify GOD with my dressing. Thank you very much Grandma.

Grandma: You are welcome, my dear. (Seeing that Akosua started going towards her room, she said) But, are you not going to church anymore?

Akosua: I will go Grannie. I just want to change my dress, first.

Grandma: May God bless you for doing that.” Please share this story with your friends, most ‘sexy looking girls’ do not have someone to tell them the truth.

Sisters, don’t just read it, please react to it- just as Akosua did because we are addressed the way we dress. Let us dress right to reflect the Godliness in our lives!

SExy

Here is what I think about that message above from a Christian perspective :

The human body and beauty

The human body is created by God. God wanted to and He did. (Genesis 1.26-27).
He created all things and found it good. After creating humans, he found creation very good. So, beauty is God’s gift.

Enter, Shame

Shame came after sinning (Genesis 3).
Nakedness or no clothes was not sinful in creation. Until they sinned humans didn’t feel the need to be covered in cloth.

The problem of sin

But sin has entered the world, as a consequence of our actions. It caused  a feeling of inadequacy, a sense of “not good enough”. Lust comes under one of those. Note Jesus’ words to those who have lust towards a woman, even a fully clothed woman (like in his times): But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  (Matthew 5:28). Adultery in the Old Testament is punished by death. The grandma in the story seems to have forgotten that verse.
If one can’t stand feeling lustful with a woman who is wearing a dress of her choice, the problem lies with the beholder. It shows a lack of the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in them, one of which is self-control. Such people, ought to ask for grace and more of the Spirit.

If sexiness is about sex, then…

Sex within a God ordained relationship ( as seen in Adam and Eve) is sacred, beautiful and part of God’s plan (Genesis 1.28). Sex outside marriage is not part of its purpose, and is neither fulfilling nor sacred. It creates unwanted complications in relationships and much trouble and dissatisfaction within the soul. Any leading towards sex outside a marriage relationship, is to lead towards sin, be it man or a woman. Any such sexiness that is meant to evoke sexual feelings ought to be towards one’s spouse. In a Christian understanding, it is God who blesses and seals a marriage. That’s where that kind of sexiness becomes meaningful.

Too sexy for your shoes? Varied meanings of sexy.

Linguistics tell us that words have denotative meaning (what it actually meant) and connotative meaning (layers of meaning, that add on over time). Sexy originally means something that evokes sexuality (denotative).

However, over time and due to over use, the word has become part of casual conversation to describe anything that is attractive. Sexy phone, sexy shot (cricket), sexy interiors (houses), sexy beats (music), in addition to  the word in its actual sense. This causes confusion. The way she uses it may not be how I use it or how they use it. It doesn’t, these days, always imply “I want sex.” It has, however, become more of a substitute for attractive, no matter how unfit  you may think the term is. That’s a lot of connotative meanings or additional layers.

Dressing sense is common sense

A sense of dressing is important for any occasion. I’m sure that not many interview candidates who wore shorts to an interview for a Corporate ever got the job. Why? Isn’t the candidate free to wear what s/he wants? Obviously, the candidate uses the gift of common sense and determines that something more formal would suit the occasion.

It’s the same when it comes to worship, youth group and camps. Since the focus is on God, his beauty and Majesty, wouldn’t it be robbery to steal the limelight by wearing a flashy outfit- be it boys, girls or even clergy? 😉 I think so. May God be the centre.

God admires beauty because He is its creator. He has also given the gift of common sense.

The Indian situation

When it comes to the Indian situation, most of us ( I’m addressing Indian christian youth) worship in an intergenerational setting. Elders, youngsters, kids, couples, etc. all of whom find theirselves at different stages of their life. The various people grew up in varied points of history with distinct social etiquette. Their sensitivities vary.
What might be shocking to the other could be normal to another. However, as Paul suggests, Christians must be sensitive to the setting and then make their decisions. Will what I wear cause a disturbance in the community when it comes to worship?  Will I hog the focus, even though its not my fault? Then sensitivity is paramount.

What is ultimate : Seeking the salvation of all.

The above doesn’t mean I live in fear and self-doubt. We ought to ask ourselves : which are the places where my beauty and attractiveness will glorify God? Be in all your splendour there! That’s the conclusion the grandma comes to which is indeed Biblical. However, responsibility on the part of the male is missing from the forward.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10.31-33

 

 

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Consistency

Consistency

During my teens, my father, from time to time , would point out to my beard, the lack of it, or its partial presence, and say that a man ought to be consistent.  His voice still rings very clearly in my ears. Consistency is key.

To my surprise, I have come to learn that it’s the same thing that Robin Sharma, Tony Robbins and the Management Guru ilk would propagate. To have impact and to grow, one must be consistent. You don’t have to do great things over night. The small things that you do regularly, will bring about tremendous results, over time. Just like the yeast in the dough which works through it, steadily.

I just spoke to Cherian George, a friend of mine, who is an IT guy also working overtime as a gospel worker. He finds it tough but able to manage work, his passion for ministry and consequent assignments and family, together. He is consistently working hard.

Merin, my cousin, is able to write a small anecdote linked to the Bible everyday. Rev. Prince, another friend of mine, has been consistent in producing short, beautiful podcasts from the Word of God with an apt illustration each day for over 350 days now! Rev A. T. Zechariah and Rev. Abu have been putting in great effort towards preparing Daily Manna devotion series that goes through a book in the New Testament, each month. In addition, they have been recording it as a podcast and have been sending it around every single day without fail. There are people behind the scenes who get up everyday and forward these messages to the groups and friends who are waiting to listen to this. They are consistent. It seems as though I have not been working hard enough to be consistent.

I tried. I am trying. Been writing a short daily devotion named #JesusInMumbai everyday since Feb 28. It attempts to find Christ in everyday things and people in the city  of Mumbai. I have enjoyed it ever since I began and have been writing consistently over these days. Though I enjoy writing, it has been my principle of late to not look or wait for perfection – an attempt to fight with the perfectionist I am! What usually happens is that unless its going to be a masterpiece which requires time and a lot of effort, I will not attempt it, especially when time and effort come at a premium!

My solace in failing at attempts to be consistent is that, Jesus was instrumental in employing a flippant character like Peter and ilk for his kingdom’s. I hope to grow and become consistent in relationship with him, in the ministry he has bestowed upon me.

Imagining another life

If not a pastor, what other vocation could I imagine myself in? A picture from a news piece in the latest The Week magazine, set off fireworks in the brain centre for imagination.

The picture was of an editor who had been working with HarperCollins India.

I can imagine myself as an editor. Sitting all day with books and manuscripts. Reading through draft after draft in an office/study room by a window. Everyday. Meeting writers with potential as well as well-known ones, discussing their writing.

A room full of books. Reading various works, reflecting upon the world, being thunderstruck by ideas, watching storyteller after storyteller weaving their narratives as they firmly grip the reader by their imagination until they emotionally choke… Just a few things I imagine. Of course, there will be work pressure and deadlines like any other job. Perhaps even travelling to various meetings and conferences – all part of the daily life. Somehow, the office seems to be cozy, with lots of coffee, whenever you need!

I have tried imagining myself as a musician. Somehow, it doesn’t work well for me. I love music, I play it, perform it and more often teach music at Christian youth gatherings. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to do so. But something about the musician life cannot be done full time. I have read biographies and write-ups on musicians and bands most of which convey the busy life of performing and travelling which eventually takes over your creative time and steals away your energy to be saturated in learning and inspiration. One needs to learn and grow spiritually and physically. One has to find time to read and reflect, learn and study discerning the signs of the times and respond.If music performance takes over the input time, then the output will suffer. In my experience it is very difficult to keep up your routine while you travel.

Having said that, I believe there is no greater influencer like music. It is a powerful medium that can express a passionate message in words and tune combined. I know that. Everyone believes it. Just imagine the number of tunes that were perpetually on replay as we grew up. We internalize the messages songs carry.

Every community has its songs and music. From religion to road-shows during electoral campaigns music is everywhere. Human beings are basically rhythmical beings and music, powerpacked with tune can form bonds even change lives, keep faith alive, bestow hope and express emotion. It is a great medium to embed a message. I have an experience to testify to this. 

I was entrusted with the task of leading sessions at the vacation bible school held by the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Sunday School of Sharjah. 1500 children were a number I had never led prior to this. It scared me to bits wondering how on earth I would minister to them, and hold on to their attention. Don Thomas, the VBS leader in the year prior, was very encouraging and constantly assuring me of his prayers. I had recently been worried and down at that time, overwhelmed by the vast area of my ministry and the sheer scope it had. On sharing that with Dr. Mary George, a counsellor and psychologist, who had been actively participating in the youth ministry, she encouraged me to use my talents of cartooning and rapping. I never considered myself as good at them but had fun when I was inspired to explore them. Whatever you are passionate about is in important part of you – and therefore – part of your ministry. That indeed was an eye-opener. Being an introvert I was too shy to use them and hadn’t even considered myself or my material worth using in that way! Sharjah VBS was an opportunity to minister for the Lord Jesus through my rap. The children jumped along and we enjoyed rapping four-line summaries of each day’s teachings and verse, wrapped around a “hook”, or chorus if you like. Nearly everyone in your visual horizon would join in. Pack along actions for the hook and everyone’s praising God with full body involvement. I hope the children remember the hook – Jesus is the king of my life.

But I’m unable to see myself as a full time musician, somehow.

But here as a pastor, working in a fledgling youth ministry, you get to do it  all for the glory of God. 

My life be like… ooo aaa ooo – Part 1

There are some definitive changes I wish to bring about in my life, today on. Actually, yesterday on, since I made the list last evening.

I have been observing pastors and trying to emulate some of their good qualities. Having seen pastors of all shapes and sizes all my life, the realization that I have a long way to go dawns, not infrequently. It is a good thing, I take it. So here are some things with respect specifically to communication I have been a resource person to many camps, sessions, retreats, etc. like never before in my life (more about those humbling experiences in another post) and you have to communicate with the organizers  before and after the programme. I think I have not been doing that well. What makes me say so? Because the way some pastors went about it made me feel dignified, appreciated and made me think, “ hmm… that is a good way of doing things.”

So this is a list of pastoral qualities I observed in pastors around me which I would like to emulate, with immediate effect (That sounds more like a statement issued by an authority…hmm….). The list includes some non-pastors as well.

1. Be like Rev. Abey when it comes to pre-programme calls and follow up.

When he is in charge of a programme, expect calls well in advance to inform you about the event, its specifics, etc. He will discuss it with you over the days and seek your opinion and by the time the ministry begins, you have a tab on what’s going to happen and you are well prepared. 

He will inform you of the requirements and ask you what you might need. Changes in the plan are promptly informed. 

A reminder, a programme-eve check and a post-programme appreciation call is part of his approach. Looks good to me.

You value your resource person this way and forge a new relationship with that person. If I were an organizer of something I would do that.

(Continued in the next post…)

Keep writing

For the first time I received an email by someone who read my blog. It was wonderful to hear that the person had been moved to ask me some questions.

One of the things I learnt last year in ministry is to avoid evaluating oneself with tangible results. One must not chase tangible results, it can be very disappointing.

Moreover you never know whose life you touched. Sometimes you get to know later, most of the time you just don’t. The most important thing is to do faithfully what God has entrusted you with.

Of course, the moment you hear from someone who was blessed by what you shared, spoke, sang, sketched,
rapped, forwarded or wrote, is indeed a sweet one. It encourages you to continue.

But just don’t depend on it. You do what you have got to do. Let God do what He will, and just trust Him.

Thanks for writing in friend!

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Churching at Colaba and some snaps

Colaba was sleeping even as I stepped into Wesley CNI church, this morning on my inter-denominational church visit. She resembled one that was snug on Sunday morning after storing week.

I loved the calmness this old church bore on me. As I stepped in from the pavement, I could glance upon an empty horizon at the end of the road – yes,my favourite, the seaside.

I loved coming to Colaba again. There was something about it which is hard to miss. May be it’s the dilapidated buildings which once proclaimed the splendour of the British Imperial life. May be it’s the “service” industry’s (whatever that means!) attempts at giving those buildings a botox or a nose job to make it look young though old, vainly retaining the vestiges of colonialism. Perhaps it is that colonial hangover or even an unbelievable appreciation towards the British who invested so much in a country not their own. Anything beautiful that was not your effort looks enticing when the creator is gone, forever.

The service was characterized by a familiar CNI liturgy. The songs and the service indeed drew me in, except for the excited little girl on the seat beside me. I felt God wanting me to let her be and help her find the pages in the worship book. Her mum who clearly had no familiarity of written English was excited to see her child attempting to sing from the English hymnal.

The Sermon by Rev. Kalison, spoke about the power of resurrection. Christ our Lord is risen and he comes to us and strengthens us saying, I have power over everything, so cheer up. I was encouraged. I needed the power or resurrection too. Yes,  I am a pastor myself, but I need to hear the Word of God and open my heart to the Lord’s power. That I did. Praise God. The Easter day message that I shared at the small church near which I stay, rang through my ears and encouraged me even more.

After the service I walked out into a different Colaba. It was a tourist Colaba which was noisy and full of shops. Yet it was picturesque and I started clicking pictures with Retrica app filters.

I had a nice calm time and here are some of those pictures

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God became audio-visual and came online among us

It’s like in those self-help books.
I shared my vision, and they caught on to it. What amazes me is that there was hardly any resistance.  Every youth, every pastor, every person I spoke to was for it.
I am talking about the Online  Great lent devotion series by the Mar Thoma youth of Mumbai. It is a blessing to see a group of people who take on to the vision and make it their own. They have begun to own it. As instructed by stalwart Chaplains like Samson achen, Bensy achen and P.C. Mathew, I got a team of leaders who were ready to work behind the scenes,  day and night for this purpose. I am so blessed to work with them. Through it all, I feel the invisible hand of God guiding us through the process.  He’s the one who makes it happen. Praise be to the One and Only.

My intention was to take the Word of God where you will definitely find the “unreachable” youth of today – Online.  They are there. And once they get the link to the devotions, they will definitely watch it when they can.

Am I making them lazy to take time to read the Word of God? Honestly,  I don’t intend to. But I hope to reach the Word of God and a thought along with a ligw application tip, wherever they are.  You know, if I could reach close to 500 youth in six months,  in a single day we are reaching from 800-1000 youth with the devotions.
I am ordained to share the Word, teach God’s Word and to initiate people to the Sacred Mysteries of God through the sacraments.

I am trying.  I am really trying. Only if I knew how. I am doing my best.
Lord, I am sincerely trying.

(If you wish to join the online lent devotion series which lasts 2-4 minutes each day, go like our Facebook page : www.facebook.com/youthministrymumbai

Or search for ” @Lent ” on youtube and subscribe to the channel. We’d love to hear from you if it is a blessing)