Would the Apostle Paul(ine) wear a hijab to Pilates?

Islamic exercise wear

Could church exercise classes welcome modestly attired Muslim women?

I’ve been reading about Muslim women who are having trouble finding exercise classes in America because classes aren’t available for women who wear such complete and relatively confining attire. [Update: In France, Muslim women have been ordered out of a public pool for wearing modest ‘burkinis’.]

And I thought about all the exercise classes at churches so Christian women won’t have to listen to unsavory music during their aerobics and wondered … Why doesn’t one of those Christian teachers put on a Muslim woman’s headscarf (hijab) and long-sleeved tunic and slacks outfit (shalwar kameez) so she can work up some classes that would let our modestly dressed Muslim friends work out?

Most people believe that the Christian faith doesn’t require women to wear the equivalent of a Muslim woman’s garb. But our faith doesn’t forbid it. Indeed, in situations where people practiced religious restrictions that the Apostle Paul knew by experience would not bring them closer to God (“been there, done that, not a life changer”), he said he would imitate the more restrictive behaviors to make the other people comfortable:

“To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (I Cor. 9: 20, 23)

Those led by the Spirit are not under law (Galatians 5: 18). But we are free to imitate the requirements of anyone’s law in order to make them comfortable.

“To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law …” (1 Corinthians 9:20)

God made Christians for: Reaching out

How have you “become like” those outside your faith community in order that you could win them? What happened?

Copyright © 2009 – 2014 Carlene Hill Byron


About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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