Theology of Beauty in Action: Men

Though we often equate beauty with femininity this study has sought to demonstrate that this is too narrow. If God is the essence of beauty and all the fullness of God dwelt in Jesus then beauty must also be masculine. The most beautiful human who ever lived was a man. Even writing that last sentence feels weird to me. Using beauty as an adjective for man just seems wrong. But if we go with the definition that understands beauty to be synonymous with glory it makes sense.

Beauty is the sum total of God’s perfections. All of the attributes of God comprise his beauty and glory. Since Jesus is God in the form of a man he is also glorious and beautiful. By the work of the Spirit both men and women are conformed to the likeness of Christ. As we are transformed to reflect his character we are changed to reflect his beauty. This beauty will be appropriately refracted in men and women. There is a masculine manifestation of beauty and a feminine one but they share the same source and character.

Men need to think deeply about beauty. We are influenced and shaped by our culture when it comes to beauty. Just as there is a standard of attractiveness for women (which is the equivalent of beauty in our culture) so there is for men. As men we are encouraged to be conformed to this ideal. We are also influenced in the way we view females. The elevation of physical appearance in our culture is mirrored in our minds. We are encouraged to use the cultural yardstick to assess women.

Our thinking, our eyes, and our speech betray the fact that we have bought into godless thinking about beauty. This error in our thinking is a factor in sexual immorality, lust, pornography, conflict in relationships and marriage, adultery, and divorce. We need our minds to be conformed to the mind of Christ on this matter.

Men are influencers and culture shapers when it comes to beauty. As men, we have done untold damage to women. By establishing or affirming the cultural standard of beauty we have contributed to the current state of affairs. Just who is responsible for excessive exercise, extreme diets, tanning booths, endless hours in front of the mirror, anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, and insecurity? We are wrong if we think our hands are clean. We may never encourage someone to get plastic surgery but by affirming the cultural standard of beauty we are essentially communicating that we wish they were different.

By defining beauty as a certain color of eyes, type of hair, complexion of skin or shape of body we create a beauty complex for anyone who does not fit. When this happens on a large scale, the result is a caste system. Your status and value are determined by how close you conform to the standard.[1]

At one end of the spectrum is the outcast who fails in every way to conform to the standard. On the other end is the model, the embodiment of the standard. And then there is everyone in between. The goal of everyone below the standard is to move upward by any means possible. When we elevate physical appearance and equate it with beauty we do so to the detriment of women.

Men of God must be influencers and shapers of a culture based on biblically defined thoughts of beauty. The fact that we have contributed to the problem requires repentance. We must own the fact that our thoughts on beauty have not been captive to Christ. We must commit ourselves to changing our thinking on this issue so that our attitudes and actions might also be transformed.

We must strive to understand the biblical meaning of beauty. We must allow this perspective to permeate our homes, churches, and workplaces. We must make it our aim to help sisters in Christ understand their God and their position in him. We must also seek to do justice in the area of beauty. We must recognize that the issue of beauty in the world is tied to issues like prostitution, pornography, and human sex trafficking. The famous Edmund Burke quote applies here: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” A robust vision of beauty will compel us to justice. It will not do to remain silent and passive on these issues.

As men we have the privilege and responsibility of being fathers. As fathers we have the unique role of instilling in our children a God-centered perspective on beauty. This will not be easy. We will be rowing against the cultural current. It is imperative, however, that we model and instruct our sons and daughters how to think about the issue of beauty.

Our daughters need to know the freedom of true beauty. Our sons need to know how to properly view women made in the image of God. A robust theology of beauty in the home—centered in the Trinity and shaped by the gospel—will pay tremendous dividends for our children and their children. The prevalence of this issue in our culture should remind us of the urgency of this task in our homes. The voice of the father must rise above the voices of culture. And the children must discern in that voice the words of God.


[1] The letter of James identifies this sort of attitude as “evil.” The entire unit is worth a look. This is James 2:1-4. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James condemns partiality based upon outward appearance. Here the outward appearance is focused on clothing. By deeming one person more valuable than another on the basis of outward appearance these people have become “judges with evil thoughts.” These are strong words for those who would build a standard of judgment on outward appearance. Since God does not look on outward appearance “but on the heart” he calls us to do the same (1 Sam 6:17). According to James, it is wicked to do otherwise.

 

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