By David Faust
Our church staff needed some new publicity pictures, and it was time for a photo shoot. The young woman organizing the group photo told me, “Your hair looks a little messy,” so I reached into my back pants pocket and pulled out a small black plastic comb.
“He has a comb in his pocket!” another young adult exclaimed. Others in the group began to laugh. I didn’t realize this was a big deal. I have carried a small comb in my pocket every day since I was old enough to care about my appearance.
The young woman chuckled and said, “My husband doesn’t own a comb, and he probably hasn’t used a comb in his whole life.” Another asked, “Haven’t you heard of hair gel?” Someone else teased, “It’s obvious you’re from another generation.” Man, I’m getting old, I thought to myself.
I smiled for the photo, but I didn’t feel very happy.
Hair care is a generational thing, and apparently my approach is a little behind the times. (At my age, I’m thankful to have hair at all.) Every culture has its own set of expectations about grooming and dress, but no generation is immune to hypocrisy. Jesus unmasked the Pharisees’ underlying motives when he said, “Everything they do is done for people to see” (Matthew 23:5).
Authentic Love for God
The Beatitudes recorded in Matthew 5:1-12 deal with the inner life rather than outward appearances. Jesus identified several qualities that lead to blessing, but most of them are hard to see and difficult to measure.
How can you tell from the outside if someone is truly “poor in spirit”? God knows who embraces spiritual poverty, but can you tell by looking if someone has the attitude of Augustus Toplady who wrote, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling”? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” We can tell if someone seems sad, but by looks alone can we discern the godly sorrow that flows from a broken and contrite heart?
Here’s a countercultural concept. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” Humble folk may not impress the crowd, but Jesus said they will inherit the earth. And while false piety lives to be noticed, authentic love for God hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
Authentic Relationships with Others
“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus declared. True mercy is motivated by love, not by the desire to impress others or make ourselves feel good. When we embrace our personal need for grace, it becomes natural to extend mercy to others. Jesus went on to pronounce a blessing on the “pure in heart.” Purity affects how we view our friends and neighbors. It’s tempting to see other people merely as tools to manipulate, sex objects to satisfy our lust, or obstacles to overcome; but pure hearts enable us to see others as God’s image-bearers.
Are we willing to intervene in difficult situations to resolve conflicts and lead others toward shalom with God? “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said. God’s blessings can be ours even when we are “persecuted because of righteousness.”
Our goal in life shouldn’t be to keep up appearances. In God’s eyes, style and cultural preferences matter far less than the authenticity of our faith and the sincerity of our hearts. For such is the kingdom of Heaven.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|Faith in a Merciful God
|Faith in a Trustworthy God
|Micah 6:6-8; 7:18, 19
|Living a Blessed Life
|1 Peter 2:9-16
|Living a Peaceful Life
|Living a Fulfilled Life