If I didn’t hate the open letter model of blogging and internet communication so deeply, I would have begun this blog post, “Dear women’s ministry, stop telling us we are beautiful”. The feminism movement and society at large have undertaken the impossible task of convincing every woman that she is truly beautiful in her own skin and the Church has jumped on this bandwagon in the spiritual sense. Books have been written about how beautiful we are in the eyes of God, women have been empowered by believing the mantra that God has created us just how He wants us, and women’s groups are seeking to convince us that we are all special; we are all beautiful daughters of God. The frills and the bows and the tea parties are all just as sweet as pie.
Now, I was an outdoorsy tomboy type growing up and while I love to get dressed up and wear my pearls I still prefer cool tones and minimalist decor and have never in my life been accused of being overly girly. Thus the traditional mother-daughter, pink and lacy events have always been lost on me. But this new movement of self-realization and self-empowerment for women is extremely dangerous at best – heretical at worst – and it is more than simple preference. Here’s why:
We, as human beings, are not fundamentally beautiful and perfect “just the way we are”. In fact, the entire message of the Gospel is that we are sinful, wicked, and damned without a hope “just the way we are”. We are all born with a sinful nature and can only sin apart from God (Rom 3.23, 1 John 1.8). This sin – any sin – is condemnable before God because He is perfect and just and therefore cannot overlook it (Rom 6.23, Ex 34.7).
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good, there is not even one.”
– Rom 3.10-12
In order to understand God, Jesus and our eternal hope we must first and foremost understand this sobering reality about ourselves. Yes, it is magnificently and beautifully true that God loves us, but He loves us in spite of this terrible reality and we must confess this reality in order to enter into right relationship with Him. His love for us is not fundamentally based on who we are or what we have done. His love for us is based on His goodness, His mercy and His glory. We cannot earn His love, we do not deserve His love and we cannot make ourselves presentable to Him. He makes us presentable and that is why we can – and must – come to Him “just as we are”. We are hopeless and helpless without Him.
Thus when we understand the Gospel
we stop looking at ourselves and start looking at God.
It is not God’s primary objective to give us good self esteem. It is not God’s primary objective to make us feel beautiful and valuable and warm and fuzzy. It is, in fact, God’s primary objective to help us die to ourselves in order to look to Him and love Him and serve Him and others selflessly.
“[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”
– John 3.30
The fallacy of focusing on “our identity in Christ” is that we take our eyes off of Jesus and put them back on ourselves.
Now, theologically and practically it is extremely important to understand our role and purpose as Christians and in Christ. Much of the New Testament is geared towards explaining our roles in the body (the Church), in society and as individuals. It is right and good to understand and receive God’s love and to therefore walk confidently in the identity of a chosen race and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2.9). But we must always remember the purpose and end of these truths: to bring glory to God.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not receive mercy, but now you have received mercy.
– 1 Peter 2.9-10
Am I beautiful? Maybe. Maybe not. It is good and right to take care of ourselves physically. Asceticism is not what God calls us to, but we as women should adorn ourselves well both inside and outside. Sometimes we miss the word “merely” in Peter’s exhortation to women and convince ourselves that our physical appearance does not matter:
“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
– 1 Peter 3.3-4
The Proverbs 31 woman that we all idolize dresses well and takes care of her body:
“She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.”
“She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.”
– Prov 31.17, 22
We must also remember that God has given us our physical bodies and we must take care of them and be good stewards of them. But our goal must not and cannot be pride or finding our value in our appearance. Our goal must be to bring glory and honor to God by how we are presenting ourselves and caring for our bodies and our souls.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Cor 10.31
Therefore, ladies, let us stop clinging to and trying to convince ourselves of the fact that God finds us beautiful. Because we are only beautiful and lovely insomuch that we are in Christ. When we are covered by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus, we are indeed beautiful before God but it is not because of our physical appearance and it is not because of who we are. It is because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. He does not want us to find our value or self worth in ourselves but in Him. Let us stop looking at ourselves. Let us get over ourselves. Let us decrease so that Christ may increase. Let us focus on Him. Let us live to bring glory and honor to Him.