Friday, May 15, 2015

A Holy, Lasting Beauty

Good morning,

Have you ever met a beautiful person?  If so, what attracted you to him or her?  Was it a pleasing physical form, a lovely face, nice teeth?  Was it a melodious voice, the way he moved, her facial expressions?  The Bible tells us this about Jesus in Isaiah 53:2 - - -  

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

But, obviously, there was something about Jesus that caused people who could physically see him to follow Him.  That attractive factor was His holiness, His godliness, His love and compassion for the "poor in spirit".  It was His inner beauty.

I think about Jesus' example when I read Peter's admonition to wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3. {This passage is similar to one in Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7), to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:9) and to the Ephesians (chapter 5).}

In the 1 Peter 3 passage, the apostle is exhorting women to imitate Jesus by spending their energies on inner beauty, rather than outer beauty; you might call that inner beauty the "beauty of holiness". When I was growing up, I knew in a passing manner some people who belonged to a denomination that we called "the holiness".  The women of this denomination were very strict about how they dressed - - - no make-up, no jewelry, simple hairstyles.  Of course, this degree of "unadornment" pales in comparison to the practices of Muslim women, who cover themselves head-to-toe in the burqa.  Muslims, by the way, don't legitimize any of the New Testament other than the 4 gospels, and then they cherry-pick their way through those.  But, I digress.

In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Then, even if some are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without a word by the way you live, when they see your pure and reverent conduct. Let your beauty not be external—the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes— but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.
I Peter 3:1-6

What is Peter saying to women here?  Well, first of all, let's get some context.  In the previous chapter he began to teach the new Christians of Asia Minor how to relate to their government, their society-at-large, slaves to masters, and so forth.  Now, he is drilling it down to an even more micro level by teaching about relationships within the family.  Peter obviously had some experience with women. Like all of us, he had a mother.  Scripture records that he was married, because he had a mother-in-law whom Jesus healed (Matthew 8:14).  So, no doubt, he wrote these words because he was familiar with most women's preoccupation with outward, physical beauty.

Is Peter saying that we should not give any attention to our physical appearance?  No, just that we should not be preoccupied with it to the point that we are neglecting the more important inner beauty of the spirit.  A lot of this goes on today.  Watch a little t.v. and you see stories about "butt implants", "breast implants", miscellaneous cosmetic surgery, botox, etc.  There are several t.v. channels devoted solely to the sale of jewelry or beauty products.  I could go on and on.  Most of us can say, "Well, I've never done THAT!"  But, still, for many of us women (me included), we greet each other with comments like, "Oh, what a pretty dress!"  "Oh, I love your hair!"  In general, assessing the physical and commenting on it is a female ritual.

Somehow I doubt this will happen, but how different it would be if we greeted each other with comments such as, "What has the Lord done for you today?"  or "You seem to be clothed in peace today!"  or "I can just see the love of Jesus shining through your face!"
Because, you see, Peter reminds us women - - -
1.  to conduct ourselves with purity and reverence, both for our husbands but more importantly for the Lord Jesus.  The word "submissive", which is used in many translations, is to many women a dirty word.  However, they would need to take that up with God, who established how men and women are to relate to one another.  A woman's submission is counter-balanced by a husband's love. When both are present and when both parties are allowing the Holy Spirit to fill them, the marital relationship is a beautiful testimony to the relationship of Christ to His Church.  (I wrote about this last winter in "Your Kiss, Your Kiss....")
2.   to cultivate, to nurture a peaceful, tranquil, gentle spirit.  This is the ultimate adornment, much more important than our gold earrings, nose studs, make-up or ink.  We can have "I love Jesus!" tattooed on our ankles or butts; but, if we don't evidence such love to our husbands, our families and to the world, we set ourselves up to bring dishonor to His name.

Maybe you are like me in that you feel that you have to "fix" or "control" everything, particularly where it comes to your family.  Otherwise, you will be judged a failure.  "Ba-a-a-ad Wife!  Ba-a-a-ad Mama!  Just look at how her husband behaves!  Just look at how her children behave!"
No matter that God is doing a work, His OWN work, in the lives of our loved ones - - - we are not pleased because The Plan (our ridiculous plan) is "off the rails".  We see a "train wreck" in progress, and it sends us over the edge. This is when it is hardest for me to have a gentle, gracious, submissive spirit - - - to God or anyone else for that matter.  "THINGS ARE WRONG!", I want to shout from the rooftops.  Peace and joy flee from me, and I have zero desire to be submissive to anyone at that point.

But, God calls his daughters to walk resplendent through their personal holiness and submissiveness, first to Him and then to our husbands.  In this way, we enable our husbands to lead our families, through our respect for them.  If our families are right, then our nation will be right.  So often we tend to get the one before the other.

Here's a beauty secret:  when our "inner beauty" is neglected, often our "outer beauty" is affected. When we are at peace, our outer beauty reflects it.  When we have things out of order and are upsetting God's order, our weight is off, our skin "breaks out", we experience stomach problems, insomnia ... We become like a Mercedes stuck in the mud - - the more we spin our wheels the more mud we sling all over ourselves.

What can we do, Ladies, when our inner beauty is off-kilter?  When we don't feel like "praying it through"?  When our tears of frustration and anguish soak our pillows at night...
Daughters of the King: you know what to do.

  • Praise the Lord for His faithfulness.  (Ooooh, that one is so hard for me!) But, here are a couple of verses that helps me - - - 2 Timothy 1:12-13.

12 This is also why I'm suffering the way I do, but I'm not ashamed. I know the one in whom I've placed my trust. I'm convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day. 

13 Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid!
Do not be discouraged!
For the Lord your God will be with you, wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

  • Feed yourself on and adorn yourself with God's Word, which will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40:8)
  • Pray.  Yes, "pray it through", whether you feel like it or not. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Talk to a trusted friend, a godly mentor.  If you don't have one, get one.  (Proverbs 31:26)

Oh amen.  Well, I seem to have drifted this morning.  But, in closing, let's keep the order right.  Let's not get the cart before the horse in our families and, ladies, in our "beauty department" - - - inner and outer.  As King Lemuel's mother taught him in Proverbs 31:30 - - -

Charm is deceitful and {outer} beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

Dear Father, make your daughters beautiful in Your eyes, in all the ways that matter.  Even as our outer selves age and sag, renew our inner selves day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4:16)  In Jesus' name, amen.

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