Cosmetic solution

by Stan Mitchell

Standards of modest clothing in our day have, please forgive the pun, plunged to new lows. From television to Walmart to the Internet, it seems, people are presenting themselves in various states of undress.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, we are told. Yet there are times the cover screams so loudly it’s hard to look beyond it. What should the Christian’s attitude to this be?

“Do not let your adornment be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3,4, ESV).

The term “adornment” comes from the Greek word cosmos — hence “cosmetic.” We often say to someone, “The solution you’re proposing is cosmetic only,” meaning that we aren’t getting to the real cause of the problem. One who cares only for the cosmetic, or outer appearance, is applying Este Lauder to the face when the heart is what needs to be changed.

Yet Peter is not saying: “You should look like a bag lady.” He is saying, “Ensure that your beauty comes from the inside, the one part of you that you can actually change, and that will be beautiful even into old age.”

Does it really matter how beautiful a woman is if her heart is calloused, her mouth sharp and cruel and her attitude abrasive? On the other hand if a woman is warm and compassionate, her attitude selfless and classy, she will be beautiful all her life.

One thinks of Israelite women in Isaiah’s day:

“Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet …” (Isaiah 3:16).

Wow, the old prophet might have been walking down the streets of Hollywood or Madison Avenue by that description.  So with fear and trembling, I offer these principles for ensuring a Christian version of beauty, inside and out.

  • Deep Down, we Know: Men know what they “appreciate” and women know what gets the looks. It’s time to be honest: We know.
  • Men Should Learn to Value a Christian Woman for her Christian Character: Emphasize a woman’s Christian character, and let her know this is why you value her. Don’t be so shallow!
  • Women Should Develop Inner Beauty: There are some drop-dead beautiful celebrities who are ugly ducklings on the inside. Develop the characteristics that are subject to improvement, and will grow more beautiful over time.
  • We Should Adopt God’s Standards not the World’s: As Christians we cannot allow the world to dictate to us on this point.
  • Men and Women are Different: There is a difference between the way men are “wired” and women are “wired.” I don’t know if you noticed, but men and women are different.

I understand the desire to be loved and accepted. I understand the power and pull of loneliness. But young people, believe me when I tell you that external beauty does not generally survive middle age, while internal beauty can grow and sparkle deep into old age.

Christianity is predicated on the fact that we can make our character, make our personality more attractive, and Christ-like. We don’t need to be airbrushed; we need to be heart touched.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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2 thoughts on “Cosmetic solution

  1. My high school English teacher taught me not to be redundant in my writing/speech, but I find it hard not to say “beautiful christian” when describing a sister in Christ!

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