I played a video of this Twila Paris song called “How Beautiful” before the sermon.
What is the common definition of beauty?
Beauty is commonly defined as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight or a beautiful or pleasing thing or person, in particular (2). This common definition of beauty is defined as something that pleases the senses. Since it pleases the senses, it is subject to opinion, which makes it not subject to measurement. The question then becomes who defines that standard?
In certain countries and different ages, beauty was defined differently.
· In the 14th century, women who were rounder and full-figured were considered beautiful.
· From 1900 – 1910s, the ideal of femininity was depicted as slender and tall, albeit with a “voluptuous” bust and wide hips. The incongruous and exaggerated look was achieved by way of corseting, pinching the torso and waist significantly.
· In the 1920’s, Flappers created a new version of beauty. The archetypal flapper was an immature young woman – a teenager or young adult – who was scantily-clad and had little regard for uptight behavioral norms. Their appearance was one of boyishness and androgynous youth, with minimal breasts, a straight figure without any corseting, and shorter hair. Larger busts were frowned upon, and bras were made to tighten so as to flatten the chest.
· 1930s – 1940s: In contrast to the lean boyish flapper style, women now aspired to become more curvaceous and emphasize their feminine figure. In particular, advertisements now told women how they could avoid a too-skinny look. In this era, the celebrity image was almost within reach of the average woman. While American women had an average BMI of 23.6 (5’6, 142 pounds), many celebs ranged from 18.5 (Barbara Stanwyck) to to 20.3 (Lena Horne) – a gap, to be sure, but not an extraordinary one.
· 1950s: The ideal body image for women remained fuller-figured in the post-war period of the 1950s. A busty, voluptuous hourglass look was prized, as exhibited by models such as Marilyn Monroe (size 14) and Grace Kelly.
· 1960s: Rather than curvaceous figures, thin and androgynous women were now prominent, somewhat recapitulating the flapper look of the 1920s. However, a “hippie” look including long, straight hair also came to the fore in the latter half of the ’60s, and a more full-figured hourglass look persisted among several high-profile actresses such as Jane Fonda and Sophia Loren.
· 1970s: The 1970s saw the continued dominance of a Twiggy-like thin ideal, which began to have a widespread impact on women’s health and eating habits. Anorexia nervosa first began to receive mainstream coverage in the ’70s, and singer Karen Carpenter was known to diet at starvation levels over the decade – a practice which would claim her life in 1983. The era also saw the rise of diet pills, which often used potentially dangerous amphetamines to suppress the appetite.
· 1980s: Supermodels and Hardbodies – While the 1970s thin ideal persisted, there was now also an increased emphasis on fitness. Toned but not overly muscular bodies were now prized, and aerobic exercise shows and videotapes became a widespread trend. In the ’80s, 60% of Playboy magazine models weighed 15% less than a healthy average weight for their size.
· 1990s: Throughout the ’90s, this ideal became even more exaggerated. Women were expected to maintain an increasingly thin look, yet with large breasts as well, as popularly depicted by Pamela Anderson on “Baywatch.” Meanwhile, high fashion also began to emphasize the “waif look” and “heroin chic.” This movement stood opposed to the fit and healthy look of ’80s supermodels, instead focusing on thinness alone and a bony appearance. Throughout the decade, American women continued to face an impossible standard. Celebrities like Tara Reid (17.5) and Penelope Cruz (19.6) showed off bodies that were far below the average of 26.3. By the year 2000, the situation was more dire than ever: Women with an average BMI of 27.5 were left to compare their bodies to Keira Knightley (17.2) and Natalie Portman (19.5).
· In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe had a BMI of 20; Twiggy, the ’60s supermodel, had a BMI of merely 15. ’80s model Cindy Crawford had a BMI of 19, while Kate Moss’s BMI was only 16.
· Twenty years ago, models weighed, on average, 8% less than average American women. By now, they weigh 23% less. Most models now have a weight that’s considered clinically anorexic. Ten years ago, plus size models typically ranged between size 12 and 18, while they now span only sizes 6 through 14. Half of American women actually wear a size 14 or larger, meaning that even plus sizes no longer represent the average American woman. Most designer fashions now only range up to size 10 or 12.
· in recent decades, these two conflicting images appear to have merged into a modern synthesis of what is considered beautiful: an almost unhealthily thin and bony frame, combined with a substantial bust. for a growing number of American women, the image of beauty portrayed in media is simply impossible for them to achieve and potentially unhealthy even if they did achieve it.
· Elsewhere, Nigeria now has businesses dedicated to helping people put on weight, offering a place where they can do nothing but eat and sleep. In Mauritania, young girls are encouraged to eat to gain weight in order to be more attractive to potential partners. And in the island nation of Tonga, 90% of the population is overweight, which is considered a status symbol. In Cape Town, South Africa, two-thirds of teen girls perceive excess weight as a sign of happiness and wealth.
· Another study showed that after women were shown media images depicting the modern thin ideal, they had an increase in anxiety, depression, anger, and dissatisfaction with their bodies.
I know that, every time I look in the mirror, I am comparing myself with an image I have seen in the media somewhere. And I haven’t been able to be satisfied without it, because unfortunately, almost without exception, every significant person in my life has told me that my lack of beauty was an issue, and would cause people to not want to be around me.
“I believed that outward beauty (my body) was all that was valuable about me to anyone, especially men. I chose to take advantage of that to get the attention I so desperately craved. I became a sexual addict.”
“I have a beautiful sister, whom I adore, but I am plain. I have always believed myself to be inferior and that I must perform to be accepted by others. I see the beautiful people get the breaks in life. I just accept that I won’t, and I am in bondage to my perception of my appearance.”
“All my life I have believed that my self-worth was based on my appearance, and of course I never looked like the world said I should, so I have always had a low self-worth. I developed eating disorders, am a food addict, and struggle in my marriage with the perception that I am not attractive, and that my husband is always looking at other women who are attractive to him.”
And that is unfortunately very true for most people – physical attraction is extremely important to them, and so if we want to be wanted by someone else, we must meet their beauty expectations, or possibly be ignored or abandoned. Rare is the exception of people who look beyond physical beauty to the integrity, or intelligence, or kindness, or other virtuous characteristics within a person. If you in any way become unattractive to them, they believe they have a right to withdraw from you.
But they are WRONG. They are actually not being godly or Christ-like. God sees the Spirit, and He does not care about outside looks.
READ WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT BEAUTY.
God’s ideal for beauty is Christ, who loved the Father over all others, and was obedient unto death. The physical appearance had nothing to do with why God loved Him.
Man’s obsession with his appearance actually started at the Fall with the introduction of sin. They were naked and unashamed to walk together and with God before they acted in deceit. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from that moment on, she and her husband saw themselves and their physical bodies through different eyes. They became self-conscious and ashamed of their bodies—bodies that had been masterfully formed by a loving Creator. They immediately sought to cover up their bodies, afraid to risk exposure before one another. For the first time, they focused on THEMSELVES instead of GOD, took their eyes off of Him and stared at themselves, and felt unworthy, a brand new experience for them. Until that time, knowing that God loved them and would take care of them was all they needed to know to make them feel accepted and worthy.
That’s why many of us are consumed with whether or not we match the standard of beauty around us. We are afraid we will never really be loved here on earth unless we are beautiful in the eyes of others. God’s love and acceptance of us is not real (or important) enough to us, or we have focused our vision on ourselves, or others around us instead of on Him. That is a problem we need to deal with, because as long as our self-worth depends on the ever-changing standard of beauty, and upon acceptance by people who live by that standard, we will feel rejected and unacceptable.
However, God sees our outsides, but doesn’t care about our outsides.
2 Cor 4:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
God looks past what we are to the individuals that we can become.
Jesus called Simon “Peter”, petra, because although he was double-minded and completely untrustworthy, Jesus knew what Peter would be like when complete in Him, a rock of faith in Jesus. Although He could see what Peter was now (He never pretended that Peter was something He was not, or overlooked Peter’s flaws and failures), He could also see the Peter that would preach at Pentecost and bring the first 3000 converts to the church. He chose to “view” Peter according to who Peter WOULD BE, not what He was then.
God can see the past, present and future all at one glance, because He is outside of time. He can see what we used to be and look like, what we are now and look like, and how we will be and look when we are in heaven with Him, in our spiritual bodies. I believe that God sees us in our physical bodies, but he “views” us in our spiritual bodies, as we will be in heaven. The beauty that He sees is the unfading inner beauty of our faith and Christ-like obedience to Him.
What will our spiritual bodies be like?
First Corinthians 15:43 describes the transformation from “sown in dishonor” to “raised in glory.” Philippians 3:21 says that Jesus “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Our decaying bodies are described with the word “dishonor” because they bear the mark of the results of sin. We can all picture the lungs of one who has ruined his health through smoking, or a brain that is no longer able to form complete thoughts because of drug abuse. In the same way, the decaying physical body is the direct result of man’s sinfulness. Had there been no sin, there would be no decay and death (1 Corinthians 15:56). But God, through Christ’s transforming power, is able to raise up His children in Christ with new glorious bodies, being completely free from the ravages of sin and possessing the glory of Christ instead.
To summarize, we are not told exactly what we will look like in the next life, what age we will appear to be, or if we will look thin or fat. But, while many believe we will bear some resemblance to what we look like now, we do know that in whatever ways our appearance or health has been altered as a result of sin (whether because of overeating or not eating right, hereditary malformations, injuries, aging, etc.), these traits will not be carried over into our appearance in the next life. More importantly, the sin nature, inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12) will no longer be with us, for we will be made after the holiness of Christ (1 John 3:2).
The Bible says what motivates us is what determines if we have inner beauty (Psalms 90:17; Psalms 96:9-9; Romans 10:15). Our works must be motivated out of a love for God and our neighbor, not our own lusts (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:7-5:3). Jesus stressed this when He said that loving God and our neighbor were the two greatest commandments (Mark 12:28-34). If our works are not based on what Jesus said then they are worthless no matter how good they may appear (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14). We may be truly beautiful in man’s eyes, but not in God’s eyes (1 Samuel 16:7).
How does someone become truly beautiful?
We become truly beautiful by becoming like Christ because Christ is our example (1 Peter 2:21-25). We become like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Psalms 119:11; Romans 8:28-28; 2 Corinthians 3:18). We receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (John 8:42; Ephesians 1:12-14; Philippians 4:13; 1 John 4:19).
Imagine you have a child, and that child is born with a defect. Is that child still beautiful to you? Of course, because it is YOUR child, and you love him or her. Your love for them is what makes them BEAUTIFUL to you.
I’ve known people who were beautiful or handsome, but were so foul and mean and ugly, that their physical attributes were soured by their actions and words.
Example of a love triangle. A guy likes a girl, but the girl likes another guy (who likes another girl). She asks what is wrong with her because that guy doesn’t like her. She feels ugly and rejected and alone, because the one she is attracted to physically isn’t attracted to her. She ignores the fact that the other guy thinks she is perfect for him.
We have gone after the approval and love of the world, who we can never please, instead of turning around and judging ourselves by the One who loves us as we are. We must make a conscious decision whose approval we will use as the standard for our self-image and self-worth.
I want to see myself as God sees me, in my spiritual body, and see myself as beautiful as I am, disconnected form the unattainable lie of what earthly beauty is.
PostScript: After posting this sermon, I did something I never do. I posted into our Baptism Gallery on the Baptism Sermon what I consider to be a gut-wrenchingly unflattering picture of myself, without makeup, in a bathing suit, from our Baptism and Cookout. Honestly, I feel like someone punched me in the stomach every time I look at it, but I am determined to see myself as God sees me, beautiful, despite my size and physical flaws. I want to be healed to the point that I can smile and see beauty when I look at that picture, not just see the parts of me that make me feel so unacceptable. I’m not there today (5/31/15), but it is my deepest desire to get there. I pray you will get there, too.