Today, I read a fascinating blog post about a trend I did not know about - apparently, it has become commonplace for some evangelical pastors to frequently proclaim that their wives are "smoking hot". The blog post can be read here: http://jaysondbradley.com/2014/01/04/dude-quit-telling-me-about-your-smoking-hot-wife/ On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with a husband appreciating the beauty of his wife. I am sure that I am guilty of sometimes neglecting to tell my wife of over twenty years how beautiful she is. However, for pastors to continually make those particular kinds of comments in various public venues (social media, sermons, etc.) is disturbing on many levels.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this trend is that it reveals how shallow the concept of Christian beauty is within modern American Christianity. A quote from Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar reveals what happens when the concept of beauty is limited to physical appearance: "We no longer dare to believe in beauty, and we make of it a mere appearance, in order the more easily to dispose of it."
What is Christian beauty? Simply put, it is love - beauty is the love that God has for us, shown to us through Jesus Christ. We see glimpses of this beauty whenever the Holy Spirit moves one of us - the body of Christ - to do acts of love toward our neighbor.
So, if I were to create a little photo gallery of Christian beauty, it would not be full of smoking hot pastors' wives, but pictures like this:
(Many of you probably have seen this picture - this image of Pope Francis embracing the disfigured man went viral around the internet a few months ago).
(These images depicting the love of a Russian couple, married for 65 years, have recently circulated around the internet).
1 Peter 3:3-4 sums up how Christian beauty has nothing to do whatsoever with how "hot" we are, but about the beauty that resides within: "Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight." Thanks be to God.
UPDATE: This article was also featured at the Living Lutheran website: http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Blogs/2014/01/140107-Christian-beauty