The following is also published in “First Thoughts” ( go to http://www.1stpresbyterian.com and sign up for weekly devotionals) for Friday, February 23, 2007.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful (1-Peter 3.3-5a NIV).
The nation that has seemingly acquired a taste for the bizarre and the sensual is now being given a full course meal from the life of Anna Nicole Smith. Once again, we have been gripped not by the war on Islamic fascism, or by the persecution of Christians in East Africa, but by another court-room drama (the O. J. Syndrome). It is a drama for our age. Anna Nicole Smith, a woman whose life was defined by the bizarre and the sensual, appears to have lived a life without purpose. She died a death without dignity. Her real life television show which chronicled the meaninglessness of her daily life now continues in her death. Surrounding the disputes for the possession of her body, decomposing in a Fort Lauderdale morgue, and the site of a final resting place for the remains were characters from her life—as if sent over from central casting: an estranged mother, a mysterious lawyer, a Hollywood photographer, Zsa Zsa Gábor’s husband, an eccentric lawyer with a thick Brooklyn accent, and her infant daughter’s court-appointed attorney. It became all the more bizarre, at least to those of us who are laymen in courtroom procedures, with the seemingly narcissistic behavior of the judge who, perhaps in his most human moment or in his most inauthentic moment, broke down in tears as he rendered the verdict.
As I am reflecting on all of this, it has caused me to ask, “Can we come away with any lessons here?” Yes, I think we can. First, there is the lesson that true, lasting beauty comes from the inside of a person, not the outside. That sounds like an easy concept to grasp. But we know it is not. Everything today screams that a woman’s worth is tightly connected to her adorned beauty. “There is nothing new under the sun,” observed the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 1:9. They lacked Madison Avenue (the advertising think-tank of the world) and Hollywood (the popular culture dispenser for the world), but the ancient world had the same problems. Christianity appeared on a stage that was dominated by sensuality, decadence, and narcissism. Peter wrote to the dispersed congregations from Jerusalem to tell them how to live faithful lives. They would have to be counter-cultural lives. In the case I am thinking of today, in 1 Peter 3, the Apostle admonishes the women to remember the true beauty principle. True beauty is the submission of the feminine soul to the Lord. Anna Nicole’s body lies in a morgue, as I write. Her beauty did not fade with age, but with death itself. True beauty cannot fade. Peter calls it “an unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Another lesson is that our bodies are holy and are to be used to bring honor and praise to God. When we abuse them with substances, like drugs, they turn against us. Our bodies rebel against the abuse and then finally deliver the ultimate pay back: death itself. Then there is the matter of sexuality. In Genesis 6, an entire world was condemned to destruction because men took for themselves the women they wanted and they based their decisions only on the beauty of the women (Genesis 6:2). Read it for yourselves. Polygamy was the norm. But Noah was a one-woman man. His sons each had only one wife. Noah’s grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) seems to be directly related to his faithfulness in marriage and sexuality. Today, the rainbow covenant reminds us that God will not destroy the earth by water because of our society’s disregard for His plan for sexuality and marriage. But the Anna Nicole story teaches us that sin itself will destroy us, and take others down with us into the deep, dark waters of hellish pain.
I appeal to you, beloved in Christ, to consider this sad story before us and then turn again to the Lord. Let us not miss the damage that life apart from Christ can bring. Let us turn again to Him and seek purity of life and heart by seeking Jesus. Here is the thing: the love of Christ finally overwhelmed the decadent Greco-Roman culture. Grace defeated sin. The followers of Jesus increased more than the followers of the devil.
I believe in the Gospel. I believe in the power of Jesus. I believe that love is stronger than lust. I believe that Jesus is greater than all earthly powers. I believe in the beauty that Jesus is working in the souls of those who turn to Him. I believe this beauty will never fade. I believe that it will increase and one day break forth in unadorned splendor when Christ will
“…present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
And so I am hopeful about true beauty in our world today.
May the blessings of Jesus be upon you, my dearest ones.