Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Goal: a gentle and quiet spirit

My sister and I were looking at an old high school yearbook. We came across a former classmate and both of us noticed how unattractive he was. However, in high school, we, and everyone else thought he was good-looking. Our taste hadn’t changed, so why the discrepancy?

We talked about it and remembered that he was such a nice person that no one noticed his appearance. In fact, his other qualities made him handsome. My, things have changed.

In North America at least, and perhaps most of the rest of the world, we are hung up on appearance. After praying yesterday for the political leaders of our country, I’m thinking how our Prime Minister gave in to public and media pressure that dictated he needed a new look, a different haircut, and whatever it takes to fend off criticism about his appearance. Of course people care about how he governs, but appearance has become far too big an issue.

I suppose this is not merely a modern problem. In the Old Testament, Saul became king partly because of his appearance. He was tall, good-looking, and seemed the best candidate. He turned out to be a disaster, a leader who disobeyed God and worried more about ‘looking good’ than being good. However, when it came time to replace him, the prophet Samuel to whom God gave the job, was reluctant. When he finally agreed to do the job, he almost made the same mistake.

God told him that the new king would be one of the sons of Jesse. As Samuel viewed them, Eliab caught his eye. He thought this handsome young man must surely be God’s choice. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

God’s thinking applies to women too. In 1 Peter 3, He says, “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.”

Our look through the yearbook shows me that a good heart does affect the way a person is seen. Even someone without a Hollywood face can be remembered as good-looking by the way they live. Somehow, very few think that way these days, and our value system is not what it used to be or at least what it ought to be.

God’s values never change. Ours are more fickle. Instead of being concerned about heart issues, externals have become far too important and we pressure people, and are pressured ourselves into a superficial mold, a way of thinking that is shallow and based on things that do not last. Besides, no one wants their heart examined, not by others and certainly not by God. It is far easier to get a haircut, wear makeup and cover ourselves with designer clothes.

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