For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty;
only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh,
but by love serve one another.
Christians who objected to swimming is due to the concern of immodesty, which could lead to sin of the flesh in thoughts and even in deeds. This is a valid concern as the Lord Jesus gave warning in Matthew 5:28; “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” No honest Christians would dare claim that swimming in public pools would not increase the risk of him sinning with his eyes and thoughts.
But swimming might be a necessary life skill a person has to learn, especially those who live near coaster areas or waterways whose livelihood also depends on knowing how to swim. It should be noted that many of Christ’s disciples were fishermen. Out of necessity, you cannot expect fishermen to be dressed in such a way that would hinder his occupation. In John 21:7, we have a recorded instance where Peter was improperly attired while fishing and he was acutely aware of his immodesty. “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.” However, it is interesting to note that the Lord did not rebuke Peter for this incident.
There are also times when it would be impossible to avoid swimming especially when swimming is part of the curriculum in schools and in armed services. A Christian would then have to pray and trust God to deliver him from evil. Some super pious Christians would insist in their right not to participate in swimming even though it is required for everyone in an institution to swim or pass a swimming proficiency test. Imagine a young Christian man drafted into the armed forces for national service protesting to his superior because he believes it is not right for him to swim as a Christian. The superior might very well conclude that he might be trying to avoid his duties. I doubt the super pious saint would choose the prospect of spending time in jail than to serve in armed forces and learn to swim while serving national service to defend his country like everyone else.
It is good to learn to swim which is also a good form of exercise especially so for those people who cannot afford to strain their joints in running or other vigorous sports. But a Christian can also fall into sin due to the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh and he should exercise discernment and discretion on this matter. Swimming should be an individual decision and not the church. The church should not organized swimming activities for the whole church lest when anyone falls into sin, the church is implicated and its reputation and influence tarnished.
It is comforting to note in the Bible that the Lord has very little to say about dress code which is external but a lot is said about the hearts and motives of men which is inward in nature. It is not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law that really counts on how a man should obey the Scriptures.
“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10) So it is pointless to judge anyone on this matter.