“I came to college thinking that eating disorders were invented by elite white feminists, but after spotting dozens of women on campus whose legs were half the size of my arm, I now know otherwise. I was introduced to the world of eating disorders, strangely enough, not by a woman, but by a man. I was eating dinner in our main dining hall during my freshman year in college, then left to go to the bathroom. When I returned for my books, the young man sitting at my table was wearing a very worried expression. He greeted me very seriously, looked at me with intensity, ‘Hi’, he breathed. ‘Is something wrong?’ I asked him. ‘Well, when you notice a girl going to the bathroom after a meal, you know, you have to ask her, do you have a problem?’” (A Return To Modesty, Wendy Shalit, p. 58). We do live in a strange world, a world that places a tremendous amount of importance upon external physical attractiveness. Yet, it looks like God’s people have always lived in a world where too much importance is placed upon one’s looks. Solomon noted, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain” (Proverbs 31:30). In a recent sermon, a young man noted the following points that emphasize the vanity of trying to live up to the world’s standards of beauty.
I Will Never Be Beautiful According to the World’s Standard
· The world’s standard demands perfection
· The world’s standard changes every day
· The world’s standard requires a body type that 99% of the world can never have
· Much of what the world calls beauty is actually deception
· I do not have enough time and money to be beautiful by the world’s standard
· Any physical beauty I possess is temporary
The Bible and Physical Attractiveness
Seeing that God created men and women (Genesis 1:26), we should not be surprised that the human form can be very attractive. Even inspired writers noted that certain individuals were very attractive (2 Samuel 14:25 “Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom…from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him”). Therefore, no one should feel ashamed for being attractive. David was both handsome (1 Samuel 16:12 “with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance”), and a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). People need to be reminded that physical beauty has its own temptations, just like the difficulty of a rich man entering into kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23-24). As Solomon noted, “charm is deceitful”, that is, one can depend too much upon their charm and attractiveness and neglect their soul in the process. Ezekiel noted, “But you trusted in your beauty” (16:15). Like it or not, call it unfair, but study after study has confirmed that people who are more attractive receive better or preferential treatment. The danger of this is that one can trust in their looks, and become lazy in the development of their character. One writer noted that many people may end up lost, for really no other reason than that of being lazy (Matthew 7:26; Luke 13:24). The Pharisees looked so good on the outside that they neglected truly importance matters of spiritual character (Matthew 23:27).
Overlooked True Beauty
“The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor (beauty-KJV) of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29). The term rendered “honor” or “beauty” here is defined as, magnificence, i.e. ornament or splendor, beauty, comeliness, excellency, glorious, majesty”. “A proverb to lift the reader above the unfruitful attitudes of envy, impatience, and contempt which the old and the young may adopt towards each other. Each age has its appointed excellence, to be respected and enjoyed in its time” (Kidner pp. 140-141). In addition, the aged have a different kind of strength, but it is still strength nonetheless. Gray hair says, “They have survived youth (an accomplishment in itself), they have reached the age of rest and relaxation, and they have acquired the wisdom of old age” (Alden p. 153).
“Worship the Lord in holy array (in the beauty of holiness)” (Psalm 29:2; 69:9; 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21). “That is to say, in such outward garb and demeanor as befits those that recognize the nature of the God they adore” (Leupold p. 685). Holiness is not boring rather, holiness is very attractive and beautiful. There is something extremely attractive about a person who is pure in life and mind, who manifests virtue, integrity, and innocence when it comes to sin (1 Peter 1:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1). “Notice that holiness is not some grim legalism. It is beautiful. It is the restoration of God’s creation before the fall. It is our conformation to His very character. It is being remade into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18)” (Williams p. 303).
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15): “Passages like Nahum 1:15and Isaiah 40:9 come to mind in this connection. In both of these places we have good news told by people standing on the mountains around Jerusalem and shouting to the people of the city that their enemies (Nineveh in Nahum and Babylon in Isaiah) have come in judgment. Isaiah 52:7 is the one Paul explicitly calls on. The feet that carry good news of God's delivering work are ‘beautiful’. The deliverance from Babylon or the fierce Assyrian was good news but the deliverance that these ‘apostles’ proclaim is deliverance from the very Devil himself.” “Covered with dust because of the long running, they are simply ‘beautiful’ to the eyes of these longing captives because of the message they are bringing” (Lenski p. 663). It is truly “beautiful” to bring the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to someone who is lost in sin. If one is looking for motivation to share the gospel, just imagine the appreciation that a good heart will feel from the fact that you brought them a message that completely changed not only their earthly life for the better, but their eternity destiny as well. To people whom long for relief from guilt and sinful addictions, the gospel is a beautiful message.
“To behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4); “Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (96:6). God is surrounded by splendor, majesty, power, and beauty. The sanctuary here may refer to both the Temple and God’s dwelling place in heaven. Leupold reminds us that strength and beauty are often separated in a disordered world, and each is maimed thereby, but in their perfection, they indissolubly blend. Everything in the presence of God is of such a high order. “The abstract qualities mentioned are regarded as so many angelic beings that grace His throne” (p. 684). Such a passage reminds us that mankind is often impressed by “too little”. Look at the earthly things that people will serve and worship! Look at what a person will devote their whole life in following! And yet, the glorious God, the Creator, goes unnoticed! It’s not that God cannot compete with the attractions of the world; rather, the truth is that most people are too easily entertained. I believe that we often forget that God is truly beautiful. The oft depiction of God as looking something like Santa Claus does Him such an injustice.
Jesus And Physical Beauty
“He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Even though Jesus was not the type of person that people could not keep their eyes off of, note the following comparison:
Would you like to be this attractive? Jesus was!
Everyone is drawn to you John 12:32
Women adore you Luke 7:37,38
Men are ready to die for you John 11:16
People who have never met you, love you 1 Peter 1:8
We can be beautiful like Jesus
· By faith and baptism we can put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
· By being diligent and adding to our faith various qualities we can put on the new man, who is the moral and ethical mirror of Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:1-13 “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him”; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:22-32).
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
“We all”: That is, all Christians. “With unveiled face”: “With a face that has been and that remains unveiled..and that, unlike Moses' face, we never veil” (Lenski p. 948). What was granted to the highest minister of the old covenant (to behold God's glory), has been granted to every member of the New Covenant. “As in a mirror”: “But reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord” (Phi); “Seeing, as if reflected in a mirror” (TCNT); “Beholding as in a mirror...or possibly ‘reflecting as a mirror does’” (F.F. Bruce p. 193). But as yet, even Christians do not behold the full and unrestricted glory of God. In the New Testament, as a mirror we behold the glory of God, especially in the life of Jesus Christ (John 14:9; 1:18). But to be transformed, we must continually behold the glory of God, that, our minds must ever be fixed upon Jesus as the object of our keenest interest and deepest love (Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-3). “Are transformed”: “The present tense expresses the change as in progress; are being changed” (Vincent p. 309). “Into the same image”: The same image as the Lord. The goal of the Christian life, or, let's just say the only true legitimate goal of mankind is to become more like God (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 4:24; 5:1-2; Colossians 3:10) Hence, true human potential is only found in becoming more Christ like. “In Christ...mankind is allowed to see not only the radiance of God's glory but also the true image of man...and in virtue of this transformation into the new man they are realizing the meaning of their original status as creatures in God's image” (Hughes p. 119)
In other words, what was lost at the fall (Genesis 3), is to be regained in a relationship with Christ. “From glory to glory”: “In ever-increasing splendor” (Phi); “From one degree of splendor to another” (Gspd). Our glory is not fading, but rather it grows. From present glory, to future glory. Or the glory seen in Christ, creates a similar glory in those who behold Him with unveiled hearts. “Even as from the Lord the Spirit”: Or, “The Spirit of the Lord”. “The Lord who is the Spirit” (RSV). “Even from a Spirit that is Lord” (Rhm) Jesus made all this possible. He died for our sins, thus freeing us to start a new life. He sent the Holy Spirit, Who revealed the particulars of what to change about us. And He will even transform our physical bodies at the resurrection, thus leading us to heights of even greater glory. “Surely if the mission of Moses, the greatest of all lawgivers, was glorious, much more glorious is the ministry of Paul, and of all true messengers of the gospel of Christ” (Erdman p. 50).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017