“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of 1500 year old, 200 proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started.” Robert Capon
Turnt on Grace. Let’s start another Reformation of Grace guzzlers shall we?
The other morning Josiah received a Cyberverse Transformer from my garage-sale-hopping wife (I can neither confirm nor deny she’s addicted). I wouldn’t have recognized this character had his name not been on the unopened box: “MudFlap.” When he’s not a Decepticon-fighting Autobot he’s drag racing the streets as an orange tricked out Chevy Traxx. So he’s a good guy.
But when we lifted his head out of the hood my six year old had a couple of questions:
“Why is Mudflap ugly? Is he bad?”
I stumbled over an answer and tried to explain how good guys can be ugly too. As parents, we have attempted to sow into our sons the truth that looks have nothing to do with a person’s character. But the dominating wind of culture seemed to blow all those seeds away for a moment.
It got me thinking.
My first crush was probably Ariel, from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” I was seven. Other than fish scales for legs, she was a knockout redhead with a Barbie body and a voice like a choir of baby angels. A mythical creature.*
She was good.
But this disgusting obese Octo witch wasn’t:
Sleeping Beauty didn’t have an overbite. Prince Charming didn’t have a double chin.
Even when the culture tries to get it right, it still gets it wrong. “Beauty and The Beast” has good intentions from the outset, but the chivalrous premise disintegrates in the end. The “Beast” is actually a dude who looks like this:
You didn’t think a beautiful girl would live happily ever after with that ponytailed Giant Schnauzer did you?
It’s not just a Disney induced disease. “The Avengers” movie series has a similar premise, just for an older audience:
Other than the roid raging Hulk, the main characters consist of 1. A cocky billionaire playboy with a hot wife and genius wit (Iron Man) 2. A god King with a chiseled frame and flowing Fabio like blond hair (Thor) 3. The perfect boy next door and patriot who may be part timing as an Abercrombie and Fitch model (Captain America).
All good guys. All good-looking.
Even though we know this shouldn’t be true, we drink this Kool Aid down. It’s the toxic air we passively breathe, so we rarely notice it. Modern renditions of Christ confirm this. How many commercial caricatures of Jesus make him a tall white Vidal Sassoon spokesman with six-pack abs? A pure and holy pretty boy. A soft Savior:
You want to know what Christ looked like on earth? Go to any Iraqi village and look into the sun worn face and dark brown eyes of the average male peasant there. You’ll be closer to truth.
But the truth isn’t sexy. And most times, neither is good.
The most evil creature in the world masquerades as a beautiful angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). So beauty, in all of its alluring draw, can be flat-out bad. It can be twisted for the worst.
Let’s reject the fallen outlook that only values what is seen.
The real knights in Shining Armor may have acne.
The real Princesses may be quite plain.
But they shine like stars (Philippians 2:15). Now and ever after.
*I married my very own bombshell redhead 14 years later