True Beauty is Only Skin Deep – Or Is It?

by the Rev. Rich Heinz

True Beauty“Are you hot?” asks a certain Facebook application.  Magazine covers, TV commercials, and movie producers constantly flash images before our eyes of people who are beautiful by their standards.  The unspoken message is that these should be our standards as well.

Throw Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks into the mix as producers, and True Beauty emerges.  True Beauty is a television show (Monday nights on ABC) full of “beautiful people” – but with a twist!  There is an underlying message: true beauty is not only about physical looks and bodily perfection.  True beauty relies on inner beauty: compassion, honesty, trust, and more. 

The contestants think that this is a contest about looks and bodily perfection.  Yet one by one they are eliminated for failures of “inner beauty.”  Only when they are eliminated are they shown a video montage of how “ugly” they have been toward others.

At first, this seems like a good message.  But think about it for a moment.  Is there such a thing as “inner beauty?”  After the Fall in the Garden, and the shattering of the image of God?  The answer is, “No!”

Christ Baptism Stained-GlassJesus says: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person”  (Matthew 15:19-20a ESV.)  So much for inner beauty!  Human “inner beauty” was dashed to pieces when our first parents rebelled against God.  They knew perfect, wondrous, holy beauty, and lost it all.

The lesson is: true beauty actually is external.  What?!!!  Yes, true beauty is external.  However, it is not our own.

As we recently celebrated, our dear Lord was baptized for us.  Jesus’ Great Reversal took all our sin, sickness, evil, and death and latched on to Him in those waters.  Like a sponge in dirty water that miraculously soaked up all the dirt, Jesus took our corruption and placed it on Himself.  He who is truly beautiful became ugly as sin for us!

Having paid for that sin in His death, and having published that victory through His resurrection, Jesus now continues the Great Reversal: He gives us His perfection and holiness.  “For as many of us as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27 ESV.)  In Holy Baptism, our Savior covered you with Himself.  You are clothed with Christ!  He is the ultimate in perfect clothes and flawless make-up, covering every blemish and flaw.  But He does not engage in a mere “cover-up.”  He removes that stain of sin.  He transforms us as He covers us, so we are no longer ugly to God.

Yes, true beauty is external!  But it is not our own.  The true beauty of Christ covers us at Baptism!  True beauty is experienced in the Divine Service, as we receive His Holy Gifts.  And true beauty will be fully revealed and understood as we dwell in the perfect beauty of His heavenly courts for eternity!

The Rev. Rich Heinz is pastor of Saint John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, Indiana.  For some reason, he and his wife don’t follow many “popular” reality shows, and get hooked on the “off-the-wall” ones!

Created: January 14th, 2009