Beauty and Faith
The problem with the world’s standard of beauty is the absence of faith. If you were to ask someone in our culture what faith has to do with beauty they would likely say nothing. We have seen that faith has everything to do with beauty. Everything we have discussed must be taken by faith. The beauty of the unseen Triune God must be received by faith.
Only eyes of faith see the beauty of the incarnate and crucified Christ. The beauty of being restored image bearers in union with Christ is a matter of faith. The beauty of our coming glorification is something we await by faith. The fact that so much of beauty is unseen requires faith. As believers we are called to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
There is a battle going on and beauty is the arena. The weapon of the enemy is falsehood and deception. He is working overtime to get us to buy in to his lies. His lies are a web that entangle us and disable us from free, selfless obedience to Christ. As the ruler of this world and the designer of this present age beauty is just one more area where the Deceiver wields influence. Our greatest weapon is faith. At the heart of this conflict is one question: whom will you trust? Understanding the Word of God is not difficult, but trusting it can be. This is why we need our faith strengthened and refreshed over and over again in this area.
Beauty and Preoccupation with Self
The world and our sin beckon us to live a life devoted to self. Beauty in our culture is one aspect of this self-worship. We are sold the lie that attaining beauty means a tremendous amount of focus upon ourselves. If we buy into the cultural view of beauty we buy into the cult of self.
We are by nature “curved in on ourselves” and the cultural pursuit of beauty only feeds this inward focus. We have learned that beauty by nature is selfless. Beauty forgets itself and is preoccupied with the good of neighbor. The gospel of the beauty of God frees us from ourselves in order that we might devote ourselves to him and to neighbor (2 Cor 5:14-15, Tit 3:4-8).
In our study we have also seen that beauty stands outside of us. The Trinity teaches us this, the image of God teaches us this, the person of Christ teaches us this, the restoration of the image teaches us this, union with Christ teaches us this, and glorification teaches us this. A true preoccupation with beauty would therefore be a preoccupation with God.
As we forget ourselves and center our hearts on The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we encounter uncreated beauty. It is in this place that we receive the proper view of ourselves and an appropriate understanding of created beauty. Beauty is in the business of liberating. If our view and pursuit of beauty enslaves us to ourselves and to the opinions of others then we are deceived. Beauty is always connected to freedom, never to bondage. If we properly align our minds with the gospel of God in this area of beauty we will know this freedom.
Beauty and Repentance
We will fail often in this area of our thinking. Both men and women will be lured into believing false things about beauty. We will view things the wrong way. We will judge people with a bogus standard. We will strive with all our might to live up to the cultural yardstick. There will be days where you think of little else than the way you look or the way you think others view you. You and I will struggle with the idolatry of self until the return of Christ. This is a reality. A reality, that must not drive us to despair but to repentance.
Luther said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” It is true, we stand in need of daily cleansing and repentance. Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread and daily forgiveness (Matt 6:11-12). As we stumble and fall let us own our sin, confess it, turn from it, and embrace the gospel afresh. The heart of repentance is a changed mind, which leads to transformation of behavior, action, and attitude.
This ongoing repentance requires learning the truth about beauty and confessing the lies we have believed about it. It requires being honest about the fact we have been idolaters in this area. In all of this we must keep before us the hope of the gospel. There is no condemnation for us as we struggle with our sinful thought patterns. No hint of judgment hangs over you as you fall and get up over and over again in this area.
Ironically, there is beauty in owning the fact that we have failed in the arena of beauty. Repentance is beautiful. Recall the link between God’s dwelling, presence and beauty. Now hear Isaiah 57:15.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
 Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 182-183. Bayer expounds on Luther’s doctrine of the ‘inward curve.’ “The human being, who can live in any sense of the word only because the Spirit of the Creator has turned toward him beforehand (Gen 2:7, Job 33:4, Ps 104:27-30), turns himself away from God and turns exclusively to himself. In contrast to the nature that God has determined for him, as an ecstatic (i.e., outward-looking) being—through faith in God, through love for one’s fellow creatures—the sinner curves back in on himself. In being curved back in on himself (incurvatio in se ipsum) he cuts his ties with life, which consists in receiving from others and giving to others. The relationship with the self, which originally involved being in harmony in the relationship with God and the world, changes now so that the self is isolated and made into an absolute. The human being, who is made by nature to respond by looking outward, ends up entrapped now in the endless downward spiral of a circle, talking to himself ceaselessly and to those who are like him, and spends his time doing nothing but being completely absorbed in his own existence in an arrogant and hybrid way. At the same time, the sinner draws his fellow creatures in, so that they have to suffer (Rom 8:18-23).”
 Carolyn Mahaney, “True Beauty” in Biblical Womanhood in the Home, 35. “The temptation for women to be preoccupied with their physical appearance has always existed. However, it appears that contemporary women are more driven in their pursuit of physical beauty than ever. Blitzed by the media, we are presented continuously with voices and images that define what we are to look like. In previous centuries, women might have compared themselves with the other ten women in their village; today women compare themselves with pictures of the supermodels put on display by the worldwide fashion industry. That image of beauty is so narrow in its range that most women feel unattractive in comparison.”
 Martin Luther, The Basic Theological Writings (2nd Edition), ed. Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 41.