Judging by Appearance

1 Corinthians 14.25
[Through prophecy] the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 
Americans spend just less than half a trillion dollars each year on beauty and personal care products.
Market research firm Euromoniter International reveals that the rise of the selfie has been equally matched by a rise in skin-care products. Prolific selfie-takers — likely descendants of the Greek god Narcissus — want their skin to appear smooth and perfect, and they’re willing to pay for it. If not in product, in a host of apps designed to shelter reality from friends and potential mates.
The American obsession with appearance goes far deeper, and has far darker consequences, especially in regards to weight. Vanderbilt Law School Professor Jennifer Bennett Shinall’s research reveales the impact is greatest upon women, “As women become heavier, they become less educated and earn lower wages.”
“Normal weight women, on average, have over a year more education and make almost seven dollars more per hour than morbidly obese women.” — Jennifer Bennett Shinnall
Fortunately there is increasingly more conversation about appearance discrimination. Unfortunately most of it is built around self-actualization and the ability to control the darkness in our hearts. In contrast, the story of what happened in Corinth isn’t about the church learning to get better at tolerating the appearances of those outside of it.
We cannot see the heart of another person nor, if we’re honest in our evaluation, do we often give it significant weight even when we do. God’s message to the church in Corinth stretched them beyond themselves; pursue your faith in ways which draw you nearer to me; I see what you can’t.
God’s calling is one of trust and dependance in order to overcome our pride and brokenness. And it goes a step farther: the logical assumption is that God not only sees others’ hearts but ours as well.
Our sophisticated ways of managing our external lives are the selfie-enhancing-face-cream of hiding the darkness in our hearts.
Human beings are profoundly strong creations with the strength to appear how we want. God sees past our tailored clothes, resumes, and curated social feeds. But only the sacrificial work of Christ is sufficient to forgive, restore, and redeem the secrets of the heart.
What good news it is that God loves us first. It is only when we live in this reality that we can take part in communities which look past the appearances of others, forgive them if they have hurt us, and demonstrate Christ’s love in such radical and beautiful ways that they are welcomed in to restoration, healing, and new life.
Today’s Reading
2 Samuel 3 (Listen – 6:35)
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)

Fatherhood’s Collapse, Love’s Destruction

1 Corinthians 13.13

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

There are few ways to understate the brokenness of fatherhood in our culture. The Washington Times reports that 11% of kids grew up in a home without a father in 1960. Today that number is over 33%.

“The scale of marital breakdowns in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent that I know of. There has been nothing like it for the last 2,000 years, and probably longer.” — Lawrence Tone, Princeton Historian

Paternal absence is so high — near pandemic — that we have barely began a public conversation on quality or character of fathers. For many, it wasn’t a father’s absence, but the character and quality of his presence that left the deepest wounds.
While Scripture uses many images for God, few of them create the mixed emotions of talking about God as Father. The effects of this reaction cannot be underestimated. Our view of love is anemic because our view of fatherhood is so damaged. It is God’s fatherhood that gives the depth, intimacy, and love we desire most.

If God is only a teacher, we miss the relational depth we need. If he is only creator we lack intimacy with him (he is like a watchmaker). If he’s only a judge he can love the law, but isn’t required to love the one in his courtroom.

The Christian view of God as father does not simply take the characteristics of earthly fathers and polish them up a bit. God as our Father creates a new image of a good, true, and perfect Father.
But where is this fatherhood rooted? The Bible says God is love. Not just that he has love or shows love, but that his very nature is love. In this sense, 1 Corinthians 13 could be paraphrased:

Dad is patient. Dad is kind. Dad does not envy or boast. Dad is not arrogant. Dad is not rude. Dad does not insist on his own way. Dad is not irritable. Dad is not resentful. Dad does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Dad bears all things for his kids. Dad believes all things about his kids. Dad hopes all things for his kids. Dad endures all things for his kids. Dad’s love never ends.

Today’s Reading
2 Samuel 2 (Listen – 5:07)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

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