Is beauty a bad word for Christian women?
by Barb Roose
I knew something was up when I received a link to the same blog post from several women’s Bible study leaders from around the country. The writer sent out a plea to women’s ministry leaders asking them to stop telling women that they are beautiful if that beauty message wasn’t tied to the gospel. Her blog connected with women across the country. What caught my attention were the comments from her readers. There were a lot of opinions and negative feelings out there about how beauty was addressed at women’s conferences and how beauty is taught by women’s ministry leaders.
As a communicator who speaks and writes about Christ-centered identity and beauty, I’ve heard women’s ministry leaders question whether beauty is a worthy spiritual topic. Some even rate beauty as watery spiritual milk rather than stick-to-the-bones spiritual meat. There’s a confusion about how we should talk about beauty, so without a clear way forward, women’s ministry leaders may settle for the simple “You are beautiful” cheer with no foundation or refuse to address the topic of beauty for fear of criticism from other Christians.
In either case, I fear that those two positions could actually hinder the effectiveness of women’s ministry now and into the next generation.
As long as we’re silent or hostile about talking about beauty, Satan will own the beauty dialogue. He already does. We’re seeing the results of his deception everywhere. There’s nothing fluffy or cute about beauty. The topic of beauty has become a bloody battlefield. Young girls are being bullied to death over their looks or weight. The lure of online fame compels our daughters and granddaughters to mimic the lifestyles of those that our culture worships and adores.
So, what should we be teaching women, both Christian and non-Christian women, about beauty? I believe that there are two things we must teach:
First, beauty is a topic that is wholly biblical!
Let’s stop treating the topic of beauty like an ugly scriptural stepsister. Did you know that the words “beauty” and “beautiful” appear in the Bible over 100 times?* In fact, beauty is a quality associated with the character of God, meaning that He has no ugliness or distortion.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. –Psalm 27:4 NIV
The Bible talks about beauty on many levels and its impact on our lives. At its worst, we see how beauty fueled Rachel and Leah’s baby daddy rivalry and caused Abraham to fear for his life. At its best, God used beauty to influence the selection of Esther as Queen as well as her gentle and quiet inner beauty to gain favor with the king to save the Jewish people.
For a topic that is written about in many ways in scripture, it feels like we’re more in touch with culture’s perspective on beauty than God’s perspective. We define beauty by what we see in advertisements, social media “likes” and celebrity chatter. As Christian women, we find all of those expressions of beauty distasteful. But we don’t really have a good scriptural foundation, so we declare beauty a bad word.
Last week I interviewed Christian fashion expert Shari Braendel on my Better Together podcast. Shari is a bold woman of faith and considered America’s leading voice in fashion, beauty and dignity for Christian women. Yet she has been criticized by Christians who don’t believe that outer beauty is a spiritual topic that Christian women should care about. Regardless, over the past 12 years, God has used Shari to speak hope, truth and freedom to thousands upon thousands of women.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a Christian women’s speaker and author who stands on platforms around the country and boldly tells women that they are beautiful because God created them. It’s biblical and needs to be said. Why? Because most women have no idea how God sees them! Far too women see themselves dipped in ugliness, guilt and shame over sin-related life experiences—some at the hands of another.
Women’s ministry leaders, we can tell a woman that she’s beautiful AND tell her that she is in need of a Savior. We can tell her about who God created her to be and how Jesus came to die so that she could experience life to fullest without guilt or shame. We can and should give both of those messages and repeat them as often as possible. Just the same as we never stop saying Jesus loves you because we think people should get it by now, we can never assume that a woman always remembers that her beautiful identity is solidified in God.
Secondly, when the Bible talks about beauty, it’s addressing both inner AND outer beauty.
When it comes to beauty, what’s on the inside does matter most, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
We’ve gotten in a habit of elevating inner beauty because of a few verses (Proverbs 31: 30 and 1 Peter 3:3-5) and pretending that we don’t care about outer beauty or that it’s bad. But God cares about both.
Who created the sunsets, flowers and rainbows that we obsessively photograph and post to social media? God created them to show us what He thinks about physical beauty.
In Genesis 1, God creates our physical world and the first humans. How often do we see the phrase “God saw that it was good” in this chapter? When God created the sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers and animals, God looked at their physical structure. The Hebrew word for good is towb, which is translated beautiful.
And God saw that it was beautiful.
In a world where women are targeted with 400-600 media advertisements a day, we cannot forget that God is the Creator of beauty, both inner AND outer beauty.
And what about us? What about adult Christian women? How many of us are silently bearing the scars and shame of outer-beauty issues? Sister, I know that you love Jesus. But I also know that you’ve probably stood in front of the mirror at one time or another whispering that you are “fat” or “ugly.” If God were standing next to you, how would you explain that?
So, here’s an incredible opportunity for us to reach women with the hope and freedom of Christ IF we remember the big picture:
Talking about beauty is an open door to talk about redemption and restoration.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches a crowd on a hillside. He uses the beauty of flowers as a teaching tool to remind us of how God sees us and cares about our physical needs. Jesus also refocuses our perspective:
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:31-33
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt angst, guilt or shame over “What did I just eat or drink?” or “For the love, my pants are too small. What am I going to wear today?”
First, Jesus acknowledges the struggle. Then, He tells us what to do. For every struggle, Jesus shows us the solution: See God first.
There’s a lesson in that for women’s ministry leaders, small group leaders and all mature Christian women: Acknowledge your struggle. Share Jesus’ solution.
How can the women in our churches and communities come to Christ and confess their guilt and shame if we’re silent about ours?
Maybe this is why a certain segment of women aren’t registering for conferences or retreats. When a broken woman attends an event and all she can see are well-dressed, plastic-smiling women that look shiny and perfect, she’ll struggle to relate and leave still starving for connection.
If you plan women’s events, remember that women attend conferences because they want to find solutions for what’s missing, broken or changed in their lives.
Women don’t want perfect. Women want real. Real answers. Real stories. Real women who aren’t trying to market their Pin-Perfect lives.
If you want to draw women into your next women’s event, then think about what the women in your church and community are praying about. Where are they begging God to show up in their lives? Match up those prayers with God’s hope and truth. Now, those are the topics to plan around and invite speakers to address.
And to us speakers, we’ve got to show up and tell our “But for Jesus” stories. If we’re going to stand on the platform, it’s because we’ve got a story of how Jesus rescued us from the pit. We’ve got to talk about surrender and sanctification so that the women can see that we’re putting one foot in front of the other just like they are.
And we’ve got to talk about beauty.
When I talk about the topic of beauty, I begin with a photo of what I look like first thing in the morning. Why? Because I may show up to an event looking put together, but I don’t want the women in the audience to think that’s how I roll 24/7. They need to see the “before-and-after Barb.” I show them the physical before-and-after and talk about my spiritual before-and-after. I want every woman to know that what Jesus did for me, He can do the same for her.
I dream of the day when every Christian woman has the strength and conviction to also declare that she is beautiful—not just for her sake, but also so that she can be the city on a hill to reach the millions and millions of women out there lost in the land of guilt and shame.
Just to make sure that you know, I’m going to keep telling women that they are beautiful. I don’t need to know your name in order to look you in the eyes and tell you that you are beautiful. I can do it authentically and truthfully because God’s Word guarantees the truth of that statement with 100% certainty.
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