Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Beautiful No Matter What?

I am amazed by this snippet of Scripture:
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (1 Corinthians 1:26)
The 'smart Christian' is a rarity, so that if you are one, you have more going against you than the average person does. People with demonstrably higher intelligence than others are prone to take pride in their intelligence. They foolishly deem themselves to be self-sufficient in their own wisdom, and become unwilling to listen to others tell them what to think. If I considered my journey of faith to be due to my own effort, I would - and initially was prone to - assume that I came to the right conclusions because I'm smart enough to understand what I'm reading. But on the contrary, intelligence doesn't guarantee that you'll believe (1 Corinthians 2:14). God was gracious, in that He chose me, even though not many like me are chosen. So I was saved without regard for my intellect; if brainpower does anything for me, it might merely be that it grants me a greater capacity for introspection, with which to consider the faith that I know have.

That puts me in a perpetual state of awe. As I go about living, whatever I'm doing, my mind is busy always thinking, analyzing everything I come across with Biblical lenses and seeking how to apply the Gospel to every situation.


Walking through a store recently, I overheard the famous pop song "Beautiful" (2002, Christina Aguilera) playing over the speakers. For purposes of this analysis, only one line is necessary:

"You are beautiful, no matter what they say"
I have come to the place of maturity in my Christian walk where attempts at encouragement like this make me cringe. It's a very simple concept:
Place your confidence, and the foundation for how you view yourself, on something that cannot change.
Because,
If what you place your confidence in is something that can change, then, when it changes, you will experience a crisis of confidence.
This is not the reason it is wrong. But it makes it very easy to see why it's undesirable. If you choose to set your hope on sand, then when the sand washes away in the storm, so does your hope.

I have a suggestion: the "positive messages" redundantly insisting on telling all women (and sometimes men) everywhere that they are beautiful (Martina McBride's "This One's For the Girls" is another that comes to mind) are, I will grant for the sake of argument, well-intended. They aren't intentionally trying to set people up for failure by giving them a shaky confidence in other people's compliments. They are trying to persuade them to not depend on the affirmation of others. The only problem is, they try to do this by offering their own affirmation. And worse, while the goal is to tell women that they have worth despite what others say,


They communicate this by directly connecting their worth with their beauty. This is an implicitly sexist trope, perpetuated almost exclusively by women, for women. The message that we're all beautiful, no matter what, is really saying that what gives a woman worth and value is beauty. The obvious falsehood of the statement is what sets people up for depression: when someone accepts that they aren't as good looking as they hoped, or when they realize that they are aging, then they either a) succumb to despair, believing themselves to be without worth or value, or b) become desperately defiant, insisting that they are beautiful to people who react with a mixture of amusement and pity, and waste their money on "age-defying" 'beauty'-products. It is a form of slavery, to be a victim of this system.


What's the Christian difference?

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
(1 Peter 3:3-4)
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.
(Proverbs 11:22)
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies. 

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,

But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

(Proverbs 31:10, 30)
The Bible is unmistakable. A woman's worth is not found in her outward appearance. What is she praised for? Fearing God. What gives her worth? Virtue. What is precious and beautiful about her? A quiet spirit. Don't overlook that this beauty is called incorruptible. 
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 
(1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 
(1 John 2:17)
and those who deal with the world [should live] as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
(1 Corinthians 7:31)
It's an obvious contrast. The outward beauty of your physical body is corruptible, passing away. It has no eternal value. What does have eternal value is the incorruptible beauty of a woman whose soul is saved; who fears the Lord and will therefore be raised incorruptible after the present external has passed away. She has worth and value, because God Himself calls her precious, and because He never changes (see my major premise in color above), you now have an unshakable confidence that will never come into question, throwing you into a personal crisis where you obsess about your appearance. You are free from that.

A woman who has never humbled herself in repentance over her sins against God and sought His forgiveness through His once-for-all, perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Himself, on her behalf, has no such promise.


You cannot live the abundant life (John 10:10) without first being given new life (Ephesians 2:4-5) (John 3:5-7). If you don't believe the Bible, what do its promises mean for you? How can your mind be changed by something you reject?

This is why the solution is not simple self-help, words of affirmation to insecure women. It is nothing less than salvation that is needed to free you from this slavery. And that is why you must be given the Gospel.

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
(Romans 6:16-18)
One minute of your time can make an eternity of difference.


It is why we believers must give hurting people the Gospel, to set them free. Nothing else comes close to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit renewing a person's mind (Romans 12:2) after He has converted them and sealed them for eternity (Ephesians 1:13). Why would we try to help with anything less than the best?

There is a postscript to this article that I'll hide below the break.



_____________________________

Did you follow the link to the wikipedia article? Then you might have discovered the following:
Wikimedia Commons. Fair Use.
""Beautiful" has been widely embraced as an anthem by the LGBT community for its message of self-empowerment and inner beauty. An accompanying music video was directed by Jonas Ã…kerlund, and earned Aguilera a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of gay and transgender people. In 2011, UK LGBT rights organization Stonewall named "Beautiful" the most empowering song of the previous decade for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people."
"The video also touches on LGBT issues; one scene features a gay couple, portrayed by Jordan Shannon and Justin Croft, kissing on a bench and ignoring the stares of people who pass them. Another shows a transgender person, played by Robert Sherman, putting on makeup, a wig, and women's clothing....The video received a Special Recognition award, presented by David LaChapelle, from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation at its 14th GLAAD Media Awards."
""Beautiful" was written and produced by Linda Perry...Perry's wife Sara Gilbert confirmed on [the CBS daytime] show The Talk..."
Sometimes it helps to put a face on it. "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). It is a matter of who you are a neighbor to. These people are hurting. They are trying to find relief and satisfaction in things that cannot offer them the safety from harm that they seek. Oh yes, they hate God -- as we all once did (Ephesians 2:3), but even though we are all guilty of sin, we are all victims of its consequences as well. Rightly deserved, but still tragic. Do you not feel compassion for these people? They'll resent you for telling them they're wrong. Doesn't that break your heart even more? Get to know the lost, Christian brothers and sisters, and let yourself develop a tender affection that motivates you to urgently pray for them and plead with them.

When Aguilera is quoted in the Wikipedia article this way,
"Aguilera stated in her acceptance speech that "this song is definitely a universal message that everybody can relate to..."
I truly can't. A message to encourage people in their sin, leading to damnation? A message to give people false comfort, which will come crashing down as soon as real trouble comes their way and they doubt what they've been told to believe about themselves? No, this message is supposed to be universal, but it's not. It excludes Christians, who can't affirm the idolatry of self, and it excludes its target audience from the opportunity to hear a truly universal message, which offers the only source of emotional safety and security for people who desperately want freedom from the demands they feel pressured to live up to in order to be told that they have worth and value. But it offers so much more besides.

Preach the Gospel. 
22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
(Jude 1:22-23)
-W

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