Appearances DO Matter
I wish I didn’t possess a bionic nose. Certain strong odors make my stomach flippy. In college, I belonged to a Bible study led by an all-out-for-Christ guy who was also handsome. His passion for God inspired me, but his showers- optional approach to hygiene nearly laid me out, and not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It became awkward each week as people maneuvered themselves around the room so as not to sit right next to Lloyd. (Not his real name.) Latecomers wound up on either side of him and you could see the suffering and resolution on their faces. People rarely came late more than a couple times.
Lloyd could pray down heaven and dig into scripture in powerful ways, but here’s the thing. I wonder how the unbelievers all around him responded to his hygiene habits? Probably some took offense when they encountered him. Whereas all us sweet Christians lacked the spiritual guts to speak the truth in love to Lloyd, I doubt the unsaved held back their opinions. I never did crack the code of why he didn’t just shower more often but I vividly remember people’s reaction to this godly brother.
For a few weeks I’d like to disrupt a common idea expressed in the body of Christ that comes out in phrases like this: “I don’t care what other people think of me, it only matters what God thinks.” Instead I want you to consider that, like all of God’s creation, we are living illustrations of his beauty and wonder. My inspiration comes from a devotional by Pastor Rick Renner, in his book, “Sparkling Gems II.” His verse is I Timothy 3:7. “Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.” (NLT) This is on Paul’s list of qualifications for church leaders, but Pastor Rick applies it to all believers. I agree. Christians should be the most lovely, delightful people on earth, well-spoken of by those outside the family of God.
Hold on, you say, doesn’t Paul also warn us not to be people pleasers in Galatians 1:10? “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Did Jesus live to please others? No, yet people mobbed him wherever he traveled. How did he manage to obey and please his father perfectly yet still command such a following?
I think many of Jesus’ qualities made people feel better, more hopeful and peaceful when they entered his orbit. He listened to broken people, touched them and valued them. I believe he spoke and behaved in such winsome, captivating ways, people gravitated towards him.
My old Bible study leader knew how to handle the Word well and enjoyed a powerful prayer life, yet he repelled people. My point? Appearances DO matter, whether it’s your personal appearance, your home and yard, office, work station, ministry area or any other arena where you are responsible for the way something comes across to other folk’s five senses, particularly unbelievers.
In this post I’d like to pitch a few ideas about our personal appearance. If you love what God loves, you will care profoundly about lost people. If so, according to Paul, in I Timothy, how unbelievers view us is so important, that he included it in the list of requirements for overseers and deacons. The process of initiating conversations and building relationships with the unchurched is hamstrung if there is something about our appearance or hygiene that makes folks uncomfortable. In simple terms, if you look, talk or act weird, it’s gonna be a lot harder to connect with the unchurched.
As children of The Original Designer, we reflect the beauty and order God established in original creation. I’m not advocating imbalance with too much time spent on clothes, hair, makeup, etc. However, it’s clear by the crowds that pressed in on him every day, people wanted to hear, see and touch Jesus, much like we react today to movie stars, athletes or other famous people.
The funny thing is that Isaiah 53:2 tells us that Jesus didn’t look like a movie star. “He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him, nor handsome appearance that we would be attracted to Him.” Jesus looked ordinary, but I believe his inside nature reflected on his exterior. He looked approachable, welcoming. His physical presence invited people to come closer.
Here’s some ideas for your reflection. Ask the Holy Spirit if there’s anything he’s putting his finger on, where you might need some improvement.
- How do I sound? Is your voice pleasant, with no gossip, whining or shrillness? Are people hearing your voice too much because you dominate conversations? Do you talk or laugh so loudly it makes others uncomfortable? Don’t sound like Lucy begging Ricky to let her be in the show or that teacher you had who screeched at students to control her classroom.
- How do I look? Are the clothes I wear neat and clean? Do they fit me correctly? Just a tip here, if you are struggling with your weight, wearing clothes that are too tight draws attention to that, not away from it. I’m going to meddle a little bit here and ask women to assess their clothing honestly for modesty purposes. There are times when Christian men are forced to look away from a sister in Christ because necklines are too low, hems too high and clothes too tight. One can’t help but wonder what males without Christ are thinking in those circumstances. Finally, men and women, being grungy looking might be a tiny bit cool if you’re a college student pulling an all-nighter. For the rest of us, it’s just tacky.
- How do I smell? Please don’t be offended that I’ve included this in my list and consider these two points. Some people are off-putting because they douse themselves in perfume or after-shave. Your nose will adapt to a scent you wear every day so be cautious not to keep increasing the amount you use. Secondly, remember Lloyd. I still run into church folk who need to become better friends with deodorants and showers.
Let’s be sure lost folk feel at ease around the way we present ourselves, physically. Consider the fact that it’s often the first thing they will know about us. We want to earn the right to speak to them about the eternal stuff that matters the most.