On Being a (Generous) 7

Let’s go ahead and rip the band-aid, shall we? Here goes: Not everyone is good looking.

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now, before we get into the matter at hand in earnest, I want to stop and point at two fairly obvious and elephantine objects wandering the room of this conversation.

The first is your reaction to the second sentence of this article. What do you feel when you read that sentence? Does it make you feel vaguely uncomfortable, as if you know I’ve just said something wrong, something with which you should disagree? Doesn’t it feel as if I’ve just broken a rule we’ve all agreed to follow? And at the same time, isn’t there part of you that says something to the effect of, “Well, duh. Have you *seen* Mick Jagger lately?” To which I can (rather thankfully) respond in the negative. But I am still haunted by my last sighting.

What about the second elephant? For that, a word about the culture you and I inhabit. It’s fairly concerned about physical appearance, wouldn’t you say? I won’t even patronize you with linked articles to all the Kardashians as proof; you already know it’s true. All human cultures that I am aware of are, to varying degrees, obsessed with physical beauty.

So back to that vague feeling of discomfort at the assertion that not everyone is a 10. My point here is not to ignore real things that exist, things like shifting aesthetic norms and fickle cultural definitions of beauty. My point is that, whether by the fifties' standard of female beauty (a little meat on the bones) or the 2017 standard (thigh-gap like the Strait of Gibraltar), some people are really, really, ridiculously good looking, and some people? Not so much.

I say this as a guy who is neither a 2 nor a 10. On a good hair day, I'll give myself a generous 6.5, with the potential to break into 7 territory if I could figure out which button turns on the treadmill and which one orders pizza on my phone. But I digress.

Maybe you disagree with me, but the biblical authors certainly weren’t afraid of operating on a sliding scale of physical beauty, and that is so whether men or women are in view. King Saul was handsome and Elon was very fat (1 Samuel 9:2 and Judges 3:17, respectively). Leah lost her luster standing next to her sister Rachel, who had a lovely figure (Genesis 29:17). God did not intend to make all people perfect 10's. So why does our culture pretend that everyone is a 10?

Pretending that everyone is equally attractive is symptomatic of a deadly and metastasizing cancer. Back to that second elephant. Why is our culture obsessed with physical beauty, and why do we also pretend that everyone has flawless physical beauty? Because we are idolaters. We have, to put it in Pauline terms, “…exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” 

@@Pretending that everyone is equally attractive is symptomatic of a deadly and metastasizing cancer.@@
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And our favorite created thing to worship? Created us. So we pretend that everyone is beautiful because otherwise, we’re putting a knife into someone’s Great Hope in the world. We’re banishing them to the hell of not-being-beautiful with our sliding scale aesthetic judgment. In other words, to admit that someone is, at best, a 5 is to kill their god. You’ve just smashed their little idol, and that usually results in riots (see Acts 19, or just ask Demetrius the silversmith).

We pretend like 4's are 10's because we believe the lie that it is hell to live without physical beauty. But do this in any category—be it oil painting or sermon-preaching—and all you end up doing is obscuring good preaching and good painting. Pretend your fourth-grade watercolorist is on par with Monet, and all you've done is insult Monet and render art criticism meaningless. Now, don't hear me saying that we should be constantly dividing people into groups by degree of sex appeal and letting them know what we think. If it's not for upbuilding or biblical correction, keep it to yourself, thank-you-very-much. I'm not advocating or baptizing being a jerk, here.

But if the cancer is idolatry, what is the cure? I warn you, it is no small thing. The cure is crucifixion. We need crucify both the vainglory of the ephemeral beautiful and the despair of the equally ephemeral unbeautiful. We need to be made new so that we might live for treasure that will not fade, rot, wrinkle, or require photoshopping of any kind.

@@Don’t live for treasure that will fade, rot, wrinkle, or require photoshopping of any kind.@@
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Not everyone is beautiful—and that, friends, is a good thing—because it was God’s idea to make it thus. Physical, aesthetic beauty, in all its forms and wherever it’s found, is not just real, it’s supposed to do something. It’s supposed to point you higher than itself. When you see beauty, you’re supposed to think, like Adam did when he saw his Eve, “Now there’s something I don’t mind opening my eyes to, even after major surgery. That is good!”

And that seeing-rare-beauty-and-overflowing-into-praise-of-it kind of thing is supposed to cut a channel in your heart, a conduit that gets you used to moving from seeing to praising, a Panama Canal that transports sight to song. Why? So that when you see the True Beauty behind all true beauty, you praise it.

So no, not everyone is a 10, and thank God for it.