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Thursday, 22 October 2015

On Beauty (Part One)


If you type "beauty" in to Google, Google will give you 1,540,000,000 results (compare this to "grace", for example, which has nine hundred and twenty million fewer results). Apparently, people want to know about it. In fact, messages about beauty are being communicated all the time.

As I live in a society that is going to talk to me about it all the time, I decided to get my head around what The Bible says about beauty. I came up with a few things, but I'm going to break them up in to more than one post, because no one needs to hear me waffling on about it for 18 pages (FRONT AND BACK!)

So, the Bible does acknowledge physical beauty- several characters are described as being physically attractive or "lovely to look at." But time and time again it's made clear: God is far more concerned with the appearance of our heart than with our outward, physical appearance. So, surely- my engagement with issues of beauty should reflect these priorites?

People frequently make worth-based judgments from what they see. But God says: "The Lord does not see as man sees; man looks on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16) When Samuel's trying to choose a new king- He's told the heart matters more. And David does look attractive- he's got beautiful eyes and a handsome face, but the Lord is interested in something deeper. This is echoed in Proverbs 31, where physical beauty is oddly absent from this list of attributes for a wife "more precious than jewels." She is hailed for everything from trustworthiness to fruitfulness, from strength to hard work, from generosity to wisdom- but physical beauty doesn't get a mention.

This point is further emphasised in 1 Peter 3 when women are instructed not to get their 'beauty' from outward shizz, but instead to adorn the hidden person of their hearts- with a beautiful spirit. I love that in this passage that an example of inner beauty is fearlessness that comes from trusting in Christ instead of anything else. It acknowledges that the world has a thousand things it thinks we should be afraid of- including a lack of or loss of beauty, but says- don't give way to fear, hope in Jesus instead!

All this to say, the Lord does not think about beauty in the same terms as the world does.

Actually, he thinks about it in more terrifying terms... he's looking at my heart. And there is far greater ugliness there. My sin has shriveled me up in to a selfish rebel- and while just the right foundation might, for a morning, cover skin-deep blemishes- nothing can hide the true state of my inner being.

In this, my only hope is Christ- who has desired to make my heart beautiful- and became truly repulsive, so that God could delight and rejoice and be glorified by the beauty of a wretched sinner, redeemed.

Interestingly, one of the Bible passages that most eloquently expresses the beauty of Christ explicitly says that he had none of it: there was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him;  he was one from who men turn their faces (Isaiah 53) Paradoxically, the uglier he got- the more of his beauty he displayed. "Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his stripes we are healed."

The Lord does not think about beauty in the same terms as the world does.

What makes Christ beautiful is his radical self sacrifice. By making himself ugly in our place, Christ is able to present us to himself "in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing." (Ephesians 5)  Given that our hearts were diseased with sin, this is an astounding redemption. It is in his trustworthiness, goodness, fruit, work, strength, generosity and wisdom that we see that he is "more precious than jewels".

I think I would like to think about beauty in the same terms as the Lord. More to come on this...

3 comments:

  1. I think a lot of girls - Christian and non-Christian alike - look at themselves in the mirror every morning thinking "Wow. I'm ugly." and when they look again before going to bed think "Hmm. Still ugly." It just doesn't go away.

    Sometimes "knowing" the truth doesn't seem to be enough. It doesn't matter how well you know your Bible and Christ's love for you, sometimes ugliness and inadequacy are all you can see. Is that a sin? Is it disobedience? Can we be obedient and faithful and still find ourselves ugly without the guilt of having to repent of that feeling every second? And who is to blame? Maybe the outrageously unreasonable perfectionist values of the world, maybe a fragile state of mind, or maybe pure spiritual attack (or all of the above). And whether or not it makes a difference which one(s) it is, is a question I have wrestled with on many occasions. And as much as I'd like it to be so, the answers aren't always as clear-cut as I wish they were.

    I don't know if I'm making any sense.

    Anyway, I thank you for being so articulate and for writing such beautifully encouraging posts. I don't mean to sound pessimistic AT ALL (I agree with everything you said 100%) I guess I look forward to reading more and seeing if you will address any of those issues...

    Love ya
    -s

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    Replies
    1. Sando- I totally know what you mean.

      I think the word "ugly" is so emotive, and it is such a word of condemnation. And I think it always lurks threateningly, waiting to bulldozer us with its weight and significance.

      I don't think it's a term we should use to refer to ourselves. But I think it's okay to think you're not physically attractive (not you personally!)... and I don't think God ever wants us to feel guilty. And repentance in this doesn't have to be a burden- but can be a joy. As in, "I feel so ugly, but thank you that you say I am... loved, precious, a dwelling place for your Spirit, destined for glory, vindicated.... etc). And the extent to which we are to blame is also the extent to which we are forgiven. I hope the other post answers some of the real sort of horrid emotiveness of the whole thing a bit more? Love you friend x

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  2. I really needed to read this. Thank you.

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