When the topic of modesty is up for discussion, many may feel shame and annoyed by it. And I understand purity culture in the church has been taught with sexism instead of accountability and obedience for both males and females. But what if modesty actually is a body-positive practice? What if the two actually do relate? What if God knew all along what was good for us in regard to our self-perception and body? I think when trends come up in society, we may forget that God is the Creator and Originator of all good things and is not oblivious to what we struggle with on earth.
What is the Body-Positivity Movement?
Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance. (1)
According to VeryWell Mind, the body positivity movement started in the 1960s in an effort to eradicate "fat-shaming". About thirty years later the term "body positive" emerged in the mental health field and most recently there has been major pushback with unrealistic beauty standards that have caused overwhelming mental health disorders. I'd like to add that a majority of these unrealistic beauty standards are used as consumerist agendas in media.
Diet and pharmaceutical companies have raked in billions by selling magic potions and shakes for the women anxious to fit in with the current beauty standards. And I believe God's heart breaks for these women who desire acceptance and who want to feel like they are good enough. He doesn't shame women for how they look, after all, He created us all and delights in us as His most-prized possession! (James 1:18)
Body-Positivity in the Bible
God's Word is so rich and powerful that there is wisdom for just about every situation we face in our society. There is no place where God's love, wisdom, and authority doesn't reach, because He is All-Powerful and the Beginning and the End. Many may see God's Word as the problem in our world today, but His Words created this world, we are just called to live in it. So when it comes to body positivity, we can trust that God has already been there and has provided grace for this area.
The body positivity movement asserts that all people deserve a positive body image. This means that no matter how you look, you deserve to be accepted and loved that way. 1 John 4:16 says that God is love and He loves and accepts us the way that we were born into this world. "We are the clay, and You, our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand." - Isaiah 64:8. He also says in Genesis 1:31, "God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day." That means everything and everyone He created is approved by God and accepted by Him.
There is no body type that God looks at and hates, however, there are certain behaviors that He hates because it harms His creation. Since God is love, that means He does not agree with everything if that means it will harm us. Love doesn't celebrate ill-treatment, wrongdoing, and unhealthiness. There are some influencers in the body-positive movement who are promoting unhealthy lifestyles in the name of "acceptance", and I don't believe anyone should accept ideals that are life-threatening. God is not for the destruction of His temple, and our bodies are His temple if we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. (1 Cor. 3:17)
How Modesty Relates to Body Positivity
God calls all of His sons and daughters to embrace modesty standards. Modesty is behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency. Modesty doesn't just involve dressing decently, but it also involves humility. Another definition says to be modest is the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one's abilities.
When we take on modesty standards, we are choosing to be humble about our appearance, abilities, and acceptability. The body positivity movement promotes humility among body types, essentially saying that not one body is better than another and all are worthy of love. The Word of God approves of this message. The Golden Rule has always been, "Treat others the way you'd want to be treated and love our neighbors as we love ourselves." No one wants to feel like they are less than human just because their body type is larger or smaller, so we should treat all people with love and respect.
Also on the issue of dressing modestly, every body type can dress decently and appropriately! If we are to be humble in our appearance, then that means knowing how to dress for our body types and avoiding forcing sizes we can't fit. God isn't trying to take away all of the fun and style, He is actually offering us a way to be respectable and protected in public. So whether you like to dress bohemian, chic, or urban, anyone can do so with modest standards that won't offend or overemphasize certain body types. This is how modesty relates to body positivity! It is God's antidote and ingredient for the body-positive movement.