April 28, 2008

Monday Morning Message - A Modest Proposal

As I come to the end of this brief series of messages I am a little sad and a lot relieved. Sad because this series has evidently struck close to home for many in the flock I am blessed to shepherd. I can't remember a series of messages that have generated this much discussion beyond the Sunday morning moments we share together. I have discussed these issues in hospital waiting rooms, coffee shops, at the ball field, waiting in line at the bank, and a whole list of other places. I am grateful for the response but I am relieved as well. Discussing these matters in a family friendly fashion has been one of the unique challenges of my pastoral journey. Imagine talking about matters of sexuality with an audience ranging from 4 years to 90+ years old. Try and hit that target without making a mess! So, I will breathe a bit easier (and, truth be told, so will some of my flock!).

I place before you a modest proposal today. Actually I offer three proposals. None are earth shaking, seismic shifts in our lifestyle or thinking. Rather they are modest, simple changes that have the potential for dramatic impact in our own lives and the lives of those we encounter. Each of these proposals are firmly grounded in biblical principle and each builds on the other.

Husbands love your wives. This seems so simple, and it is, but it is an incredibly powerful principle. Ephesians 5:25 states, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." I fear that far too many marriages are like the guy who told his wife, "Listen, I told you I loved you on the day we got married and that was 20 years ago. If I change my mind I'll let you know!" Gentlemen, let the woman you are blessed to share life with just how precious and important she is to you.

A legacy I am blessed to have in my family history is the example of my great-uncle McKinley Cash. He was married to my grandfather's sister Ovella. Understand that Ovella was a common enough looking woman; she would never grace the cover of a magazine, nor do I suppose she ever won many beauty contests. However, a few moments around this marvelous couple revealed a startling and open secret, Uncle Cash knew that Ovella was beautiful. He always treated her as a queen and cared for her as such. It was not some syrupy sweet puppy dog love that made you sick to watch, rather it was a deep and mature love that blessed all who came into contact with it. Even the saltiest of my uncles seemed to soften a bit in the presence of this truly great love. Uncle Cash stands out in my memory as a man who loved his wife as Christ loved the church. He was a man among wannabe men.

A second proposal I would put forward is for women to understand true beauty. We live in the age of the air brushed supermodel. We need to regularly remind ourselves that "what we see is NOT what we get" and that "seeing is NOT believing" in our beauty obsessed age. I read, with some pained humor, the stories of the beautiful people feeling ugly. The rest of us usually offer them a sarcastic, "Bless their hearts!" Proverbs offers us unusual wisdom concerning this very issue. Proverbs 11:22 states, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion." In other words, beauty with no prudence is useless, or worse, wasted. Unfortunately this is the standard held up for all to revere in our society. There are entirely too many "beauties" with too little brain failing to understand the nature of true beauty. Proverbs 31:30 states, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Herein is true beauty. It is an "imperishable beauty" as 1 Peter 3:3-4 affirms.

We need women of all ages and stages to stand tall and declare that the cultural definition of beauty is broken and untrue. There are daughters and granddaughters who need to hear and see godly women exhibiting an undeniable beauty of spirit. There are young women being mercilessly sucked into the societal lie of what beauty is who stand in need of rescue from a destructive pattern of dissatisfaction with their outward appearance. Please understand I am in no way opposed to putting one's best foot forward! I'm much like the old country preacher who was asked about his views on make-up. He replied, "I'm for anything that can make a stink weed look like a rose!" I am simply pointing out that this fixation on external beauty is leaving an empty shell.

One final modest proposal I would offer, we all need to embrace modesty. I am not advocating a particular dress code but simply that a little common sense in this area will go a long way. My good friend Kevin relates an experience he had in a Burger King in Manila. There he noticed two women dressed very differently. One was covered from head to toe in the traditional Muslim burka and she had to gingerly lift her veil to even get the food to her mouth. Opposite this woman with no skin showing was a local call girl who had skin-a-plenty showing. Quite the dichotomy of ideals concerning appropriate dress. Modesty, by definition, is 'kept within due measure'. Not given to the extremes my friend Kevin encountered.

Here are a couple of suggestions...
  1. Guys, 'Just say no to crack' isn't just for plumbers anymore. Pull 'em up, please! We are not interested in the cool print that is on your boxers. Furthermore we are a little weary of watching you try and do simple things like walk or stand still while you try to keep you pants from falling down around your ankles. Suspenders, belts, or (shocking I know) pants that actually fit work amazingly well here.
  2. Girls, in like fashion, I can think of no reason it is necessary for me to know what color and type (granny, bikini, thong, etc.) of undergarments you have chosen for the day. That should be something between you and your clothing.
  3. On this note, ladies, it behooves you to know that men are visually stimulated creatures. I am aware that some of you already know this and enjoy messing with the guys in your life. I encourage you to re-think this approach. For those of you, young and old alike, who may live in blessed oblivion on this matter please give some consideration to the men in your life. Help them notice that your face and eyes are just as attractive as your bust and butt. Perhaps they will then begin looking for that inner beauty that you are hopefully developing!
I could go on and on here but you get the idea. I encourage and challenge men to love their wives, women to understand true beauty, and for all to embrace modesty. I believe we will find a better culture in which to live, a better enjoyment of the gift God has given us in sexuality, and better appreciation for the fact that God truly wants the best for us!


Lindy said...

Hey Bro. John!!
I was just reading your blog and wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the last proposal about being modest in the way we dress. I think our dress code,especially in the church, has become very lax. It is very distracting even when you are not trying to look. But I am glad you brought it up. I really liked this series- what I was able to hear and the rest I read on the web. I also liked the original "Modest Proposal" hehe! Love you!

John said...

thanks for being an example of the very thing I was driving at in this message! Thanks for being an example to the believers! You are a true beauty!


Lucy Arin said...

Will wonders never cease? There are parts of this post where I agree with you! Could there possibly be a bridge between the liberal agnostic lefties and the religious right? Dude! Who knew?

Random me said...

I've found it, the thing that we agree on! this is an exciting moment :)

'There are entirely too many "beauties" with too little brain failing to understand the nature of true beauty.' - this my friend is very true!