Women travel with mirrors and spend time checking their looks in mirrors. This appears normal and innocent, but inapplicable in Christianity. A human being is not identified by the looks in the mirror. Created in God’s image, a human being is different from physical looks.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, 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 adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands” (1 Peter 3:3-5 NIV).
This should not necessarily be construed as a conjecture to advance feminine gender disparity. This is in the context of the condition of human nature. The fact that women embrace physical beauty, does not, necessarily, mean men are not included in that vice.
The love proposal is initiated by men, more than women can also propose love to men. Humans in this life are controlled by cultural traditions. Moving out of that behavioural pattern invites disagreements. Everyone aims at being in agreement with everyone in society.
This portrays the bondage under which humanity is subjected. The reason why it is attractive to impress other humans is the comfort that comes with it. This is why practising Christianity is difficult, as Jesus requires a 100% transformation from the old behaviour.
The focus on body looks is against Christianity, as Jesus stated that those unable to deny themselves could never be His disciples. (Luke 14:25-33). A Christian is a new Christian, no longer conditioned according to physical looks or other people’s considerations.
For women to be concerned about their adornment, is understandable. But that consideration changes at the point of conversion. Ordinarily, decorating physical looks is not in men. But, on becoming Christians, men have more to renounce than women. Although a Christian is not identified by gender.
The Adamic dispensation ends at conversion, as the nature of Jesus Christ takes over, at that point.
The new dispensation does not seek to preserve the physical body. Peter was referring to women who had adopted Christianity. Those women were no longer expected to take comfort in physical appearance.
Their beauty was to be reflected in character, stemming from spirituality. A person who is committed to service, cannot be obsessed with physical conditions. It is impossible to serve fellow humans and be committed with own appearance, at the same time.
A person, who serves other people, naturally gets insulted, with all sorts of abuse. He gets detracted, as long as he considers his personal outlooks, ahead of those being served. In their degraded conditions, humans get preoccupied with their physical appearance.
Most blacks are known to assume that their skin colour is inferior. They appear as wishing to be either white or Indian. This is understandable, as blacks come from the background of generally being despised. Nevertheless, a human being, regardless of skin colour, should not be identified by his/her physical outlook.
Although wearing a physical body, a human being carries God’s image. There is comfort in conforming to the environment. But there should be more comfort in being transformed to be like Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).
Christians are faced with the condition of having to conform to the environment. The aspect of being different is the most difficult thing to maintain. A Christian is trapped, failing to appreciate being not of this world. Receiving praises from ordinary people gives comfort, which is the opposite of what Jesus taught.
Therefore, it is necessary to be unhappy when receiving praises from humanity. Jesus never said one should be happy when praised. There remains a special reason why Jesus said one should be happy when insulted.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 NOV).
Being insulted and abused for doing God’s work is spiritually healthy. But receiving all sorts of praises can be spiritually harmful. What elevates the physical person destroys what elevates the spiritual person. At the same time, what elevates the spiritual person destroys what elevates the physical person.
When committed to this reasoning, it becomes easier to apply what Paul said in Romans 12. A truly converted Christian knows that, physically, conversion is a suicidal commitment. The friends of a person committed to Christianity should as well, treat him as no longer existent. Again, Paul indicated this reality when writing to the Galatians:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18 NIV).
The most interesting thing is that a Christian may feel incapacitated when despised. But that remains the only time he should be rejoicing. People have their own opinions about any person. A Christian is not excluded from that consideration, whether justified or not.
The most acceptable consideration is being despised, rather than being well-regarded. Jesus was raised in the despised city of Nazareth. This caused many people to despise Him, rather than grant Him respect. This was physically dehumanizing but spiritually nutritious.
Many Christian leaders are admired for their charisma. At Paul’s time, Apollos was one among such leaders. While Apollos was popular, many Christians, today, view Paul as having been more popular.
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-23 NIV).
Even as Paul wrote many letters to Christians of his time, I suppose he never envisaged that his writings would influence us today. Paul acknowledged that he was not as eloquent as others. But he also acknowledged that condition as sustaining spiritual strength.
“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:6-10 NIV).
If anyone wants a single piece of information, describing Christianity, it is the statement: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ One does well when meditating upon this particular Scripture, more than any other. The idea of prayer and fasting seeks to consult this piece of information. Therefore, none else is as important.
Spiritual strength is not found in physical strength but is found in physical weakness. Those desperately looking for the power of Jesus are vehemently advised to avoid being exalted in this world. This is what characterizes the attainment of the secrecy of God’s Kingdom.
The works of Jesus were publicly manifested. There was no dispute in viewing Jesus as the Son of God. However, the Jews regarded associating with Him, as disgraceful. Nevertheless, among them were those who viewed Him differently, though unable to openly disclose it.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.]” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:1-6 NIV).
The interesting conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus reveals more about the differences between Spiritual and physical humanity. The personality of Nicodemus was conflicted between the two. Hence, he chose to visit Jesus by night, rather than openly visit Him during the daytime.
What would his peers say, on hearing that he had visited the disgraceful Jesus? As far as Nicodemus was concerned, his dignity had to be preserved. But, at the same time, his Spiritual person convinced him that Jesus was not an ordinary individual, but a man from God.
The personality of Jesus did not convince many that He was Christ. His works proved that reality, but His personality could not convince anyone. What could convince those of this world to suggest that Jesus was the Christ could not be found in Him. Nevertheless, His works caused many to assume that He could be a prophet, but not the Christ:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:13-20 NIV).
Here we are shown that the identity of Jesus, as being the Messiah, was a hidden secret. The reality of that secrecy continues even today. Humanity is stuck on the failure to distinguish between the Spiritual and the physical persons. Paul revealed that it is the foolish and the weak of this world who are chosen, rather than the mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27).
However, on the other hand, if the chosen weak become conscious of their weaknesses, they would succumb. It is, therefore, not necessary for a Christian to be conscious of the opinion of the public. The consideration of one’s personality can be a hindrance, to the cowards.
Indeed, a true Christian cannot be found among the cowards. He is willing to die for the truth. Yet at the same time, he would be willing to be corrected when convinced of his error. Those dismissing such people, do so at their own peril. They would be dismissing the Almighty God.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
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