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Beauty Defined

God is no stranger to beauty. He defined it at creation and continues to define it in a world that continually tries to come up with its own definitions. For example, when God created Eve, He created every part of her (outwardly and inwardly) as a unique product of His imagination. She was a masterpiece of His creative power. And when God finished, He said, “she is very good.”

But eventually someone came along and said, “We can improve on that.” So they took Eve to a tattoo parlor and had a butterfly inked on her lower back, and spiked her upper lip with a metal stud, and colored her hair pink, and said, “THAT’S better!”

Some call this “freedom of expression,” while others view it as vandalism—like that of defacing someone else’s property. Some people are so covered with body markings they look like walking displays of ghetto graffiti. It may be artistic and entertaining, and we don’t condemn those who choose to decorate themselves in this way, but does it really make us more beautiful?

The saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” really is true. Our definition of beauty is impacted by what we focus our attention on.

Today, society pretty much defines beauty in terms of what’s sexy, sensual, weird, and maybe even shocking. For someone to be beautiful they have to stir our passions and evoke strong emotions, maybe even lustful thoughts. OK, maybe not consciously, but they have to affect us emotionally in some way. This is why sexual imagery is used pervasively throughout the advertising industry. Sex sells. It’s part of the rule we have established to measure what constitutes beauty.

A few years ago Philip Yancey described an experience he and his wife Janet had while traveling in Nepal. A therapist friend took them on a tour through Green Pastures Hospital, a center that specializes in treating people with leprosy. As they walked along an outdoor corridor, they noticed what Yancey described as “one of the ugliest human beings I have ever seen.” She was sitting on the ground with deformed stumps for feet, bandaged hands and a ravaged nose that exposed her sinus cavity. “Her eyes, mottled and covered with callus, let in no light; she was totally blind.” 1

Later, as Yancey and the others walked back through the corridor, the woman crawled to the edge of the walkway to position herself near where they would pass. Yancey said, “Without hesitation my wife bent and put her arm around the woman, who rested her head against Janet’s shoulder and began singing a song in Nepali, a tune that we all instantly recognized: ‘Jesus Loves Me.'”

Later they learned from the therapist that Dahnmaya was one of their most devoted church members who was a faithful prayer warrior. A few months after Yancey returned home, He and his wife received word that Dahnmaya had died. Yancey says, “Close to my desk I keep a photo that I snapped just as she was singing to Janet. Whenever I feel polluted by the beauty-obsessed culture I live in–where people pay exorbitant sums to achieve some impossible ideal of beauty while hospitals like Green Pastures scrape by on charity crumbs–I pull out that photo.” 2

Today, we should each ask ourselves, “Where does my definition of beauty come from? Do I resonate with the norms that are being promoted by our culture, or Hollywood? Or do I identify with the beauty that God looks for, which often goes undetected by the masses?”

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NASB)

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is a department of the Pacific Union Conference providing news, ideas and services that relate to church ministries within the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists ® and beyond.

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