For those who love sports, the Olympics can be an exciting time. The greatest athletes in the world are put to the test and we watch in amazement as they perform feats that blow our minds. In some cases, however, it is not just their athletic abilities that are put on display, but also their bodies. From beach volleyball to water polo, some athletes choose to wear uniforms that cover up little more (if any more) than underwear. This is often accepted as normal because it is the uniform of a sport. Others will argue that it is necessary to wear these uniforms because the athletes need to be able to move freely in order to compete well in their sport.
One person defended them saying, “Just like while playing volleyball in the Olympics girls wear "sport bra" type outfits they're not being immodest, they're trying to be the best in their sport not flaunt their amazing bodies! Same goes with really any sport that requires a "uniform" type outfit. It's not immodesty it's a sport!” Watching the Olympics caused me to seriously question this “necessary immodesty.” People say that such immodest uniforms are necessary for competition while very successful athletes have competed without wearing them.
Consider the uniforms of men and women’s volleyball athletes. Many of the female athletes wore very revealing uniforms. With indoor volleyball, the shorts were often so tight and short that every curve and crack of the body was clearly visible. With beach volleyball, the athletes often wore uniforms that covered up little more than a sports bra and a thong. Contrast this with the uniforms worn by the male athletes. With both indoor and beach volleyball, there were plenty of men who wore longer loose shorts and loose fitting shirts. These athletes were not a select few who dressed more modestly because of their religion, but just about all of the male volleyball athletes wore such uniforms. If wearing longer shorts and loose fitting shirts restricted the athlete’s ability to compete, they would not have dressed this way. This shows that the choice of revealing uniforms is not about competition but sex appeal. The Olympic committee made a recent rule allowing women to wear more modest uniforms and yet most still chose the revealing. The Olympics have proven that such immodesty is not necessary.
Modesty has always been a difficult issue for Christians because of the various pressures of the world. Paul spoke to this when he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). These words remind God’s people to not allow the world around them to be their standard, but to make holiness their standard. It also reemphasizes how Christians will be different from the world if they are sincerely trying to serve and please God. Both of these principles will be at work in what we choose to wear. Paul later writes, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:9). While the focus here is on wearing too much, dressing in a gaudy fashion, notice the standard of a Christian’s clothing choices. We are to dress in a way that is modest and consistent with a person confessing godliness with good works. This can be violated by wearing “too much” or too little. What does our clothing choices advertise about who we are?
While there were plenty of cases of immodesty in the Olympics, I appreciate the way these events also showed that such immodesty is not necessary. Not only is it not necessary, it is not excusable based on the circumstances. Many Christians understand the importance of modesty until it comes to certain events. Sometimes it seems like as soon as we go on vacation, put on a wedding, head to the pool or lake, or engage in sporting activities that the principles of modesty and godliness are discarded. It is as if we feel that the circumstances or the activity gives us some kind of pass on spirituality. Such a choice of immodest clothing is unnecessary and wrong. You can swim and play volleyball in modest shorts and a t-shirt… I have witnessed many do it and do it well. If a Christian is told they must dress immodestly to participate in a certain sport or activity, they simply cannot participate. Our righteousness and fellowship with God must be put ahead of any sport or recreational activity. As Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Let’s not give into the worldly theology that says, “It’s okay, it’s a sport.”