Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

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Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

17 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?”

  1. Before Christ saved me I used to wear a bikini… even though I was with my husband it still caused other men to ‘look’ at me. Hmm…
    I didn’t even have to consider the ‘not wearing a bikini’ issue when I was humbled to repent and desire Jesus Christ to be Lord over all of my life.
    Sadly, during the most crucial years of my married life while having babes and nursing them my husband would make excuses for taking that second glance at women who were very scantily clad (and even those who weren’t) He had a heart issue, right? But made excuses … “Well, what can I do when they walk right in front of me?” etc etc
    I apologize for the long comment but this whole dressing modestly issue is a “heart issue” and I’m grieved at how many of us are made to feel ‘legalistic’ when all we are attempting to do is warn and protect others from much grief.
    I pray we can be mature and keep our hearts pure and dedicated to pleasing Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question, Kay! Those of us who are more mature in the faith probably wouldn’t even need to have that question cross our minds. The answer comes reflexively from years of training in how to think biblically. It’s my hope that our younger-in-the-faith sisters will view this article as a training exercise in how to think through not only the question of whether or not to wear a bikini, but subsequent biblical issues they encounter along their walk with the Lord :0)

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      1. Thank you, dear Michelle for that most necessary, obvious and appropriate addition to my question/response! WOW! I may not struggle with the “bikini” issue, but there are “issues” in my life with which I do struggle; and they too are heart-issues!

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  2. Bikinis and such are the number one reason my husband will not go to the public swimming pool any longer. And while I give him total credit for protecting himself from sin and me from being hurt, the kids and I miss having him along!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am in Leviticus in my daily Bible reading. Chapter 18 consists almost exclusively of prohibitions against “uncovering the nakedness” of just about any female relative you could think of. These “uncoverings” are spoken of as if shockingly shameful, and a sexual connotation seems to be suggested. Nakedness appears not to be a morally neutral issue in the Bible after the fall. (Cf the incident of Noah’s drunken nakedness after the flood.) Isn’t a bikini as close to the naked boundary as a woman can go? To me it looks like moral rebellion disguised as naivety.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the place where something can get legalistic is when we push our views on others. I don’t know why any Christian woman would want to wear a bikini, I really don’t. There are so many nice swimsuits available. However, I’ve seen real divisiveness among Christian women (especially with those homeschool pool parties – yikes!) when so many “rules” are dictated ahead of time. I guess it’s my older age, however, I think it’s just best to let the Holy Spirit do the work on people’s choices rather than make a huge issue about it to them. As one person said, her husband made his own solution by just avoiding public swimming places..SDG

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Modesty is an issue that I had to rethink according to Scripture not only for myself but for my daughters. I love Pam Hardy’s lecture notes about Modesty Matters on biblebb.com : http://www.biblebb.com/files/ModestyMatters.htm
    I did some research and we have invested in modest swimsuits over the years, sporty with good sun protection. Last year I bought something tropical and pretty from a Christian seamstress at http://www.MeantToBeModest.com
    Thank you, Michelle, for addressing the thoughts and attitudes behind the choices we make.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I once attended a school that only allowed coulottes (spelling?) to wear, instead of shorts during P.E. And they didn’t allow for even the female teachers to wear pants, just long skirts. Then when the school’s principal had changed, they got to wear pants – just not too tight ones.

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  7. Thank youuuuu for this! I’ve only worn a bikini once in my life (a private pool party with seven of my girlfriends) and that one time that I did, I asked to not be included in public photos. Honestly,it was mainly because of self confidence issues and insecurities with my body. — this was before I became a Christian.

    Then as I became really fit — quit smoking, gave up alcohol, learned not to overeat and I realized that even without exercise yet, I looked fit, and I said to myself “now is my chance” 😝😅 But for some reason, God put this thought in my head “would you like to let the world see what the man you’re gonna should only see for himself?”

    I literally prayed and asked God why He didn’t wanna let me wear a bikini. Hahahaha and he brought me to this same verse. ☺️ as Christians, we live by standards higher than the world — we live by their standards of Christ and it is a difficult standard — LORD knows it’s an IMPOSSIBLE standard — but we are able to live by it, not out of our will, but because of God’s amazing grace 🙌🏻

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    1. My thoughts: If you’re swimming, you need to be less clad. Making that an illicit thing creates the problem. Rules like “no midriff showing”, “no string straps”, “no cleavage at all” for swimsuits are 1) arbitrary and have zero Biblical prooftexts supporting them, just very vague, ill-defined notions of “modesty”, and 2) are inherently sexist because they put additional burdens on women that men do not have. Also 3), that such rules also implicitly tell Christian men and women that things like exposed midriffs are inherently illicit and sexy, which ends sexualizing women who are dressed the way they are out of desire for comfort, in order to be fashionable and cute, or both.

      This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be concern for propriety. Absolutely there should be. But what is proper is situationally dependent. And a woman in a bikini is still trying to be proper – she’s covering up the parts considered indecent. So, I do agree with you – it’s the heart attitude that matters, and we shouldn’t seek to be vain. That is true whether or not a woman has her midriff and some cleavage exposed, or the man is wearing a shirt or not. And it’s not really something others can know unless told.

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