What Is Real Beauty?

The Bible doesn’t denounce beauty; rather, the Psalms extol it as something we enjoy with our sight:

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

The apostle Peter states that Christians should not be focused on outward beauty but rather inner beauty:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (1 Pet. 3:3–4)

The psalmist and Peter are not contradicting each other in the above verses. A Christian can and should enjoy beauty as it is one of God's great gifts to us. Yet, we need to interact with it in a respectful manner, not a vain one. When we appreciate the beauty we find in nature, the arts, architecture, and people, we honor our Creator.

Beauty is all around us, but sometimes we experience it in ways that especially touch our souls. My daughter got married recently, and the celebration was accompanied by the usual selection ahead of time of elegant dresses for the ladies and formal wear for the gentlemen. Such a special day called for some special preparation in honor of the vows the bride and groom would exchange.

I remember waiting with my oldest son who was about to escort me to my seat. As we walked through the doors outside onto the upper deck where the wedding ceremony was about to take place, I gazed upon my family and friends whose faces were filled with joy. I was overwhelmed with emotion. They all looked so beautiful, dressed in their best to celebrate this union ordained by God at creation. Yet, it was the love that poured out from within them that made the scene glorious.

These were not just any people. They had been with my family through the great highs and lows of life. Together we struggled to make it in a world of much joy and sorrow. It always seemed as if I received more from these precious people than I ever gave. Perhaps it was because I felt I could never adequately repay them for all they did for my family over the years. And here they all were, still giving, now celebrating this happy day with us.

When Jesus walked on the earth, he too joined in the celebrations of life (John 2:1–12). He also bore our grief and carried our sorrows, all the way to the cross (Isa. 53:4). When he gave of himself, he gave all of himself so that his bride, the church, could live forever with him:

…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25–27)

The Bible tells us that Jesus did not have the earthly good looks we usually see portrayed in movies about him (Isa. 53:2). Yet, no one could ever be more beautiful than Jesus, with his pierced hands and side (John 20:27). The day will come when Christians shall see Jesus face-to-face, and they will know his beauty in all its perfection (Ps. 27:4). Even more unfathomable is that all God’s children shall be like him (1 John 3:2).

My family and friends didn’t realize it along the way, but somehow in those regular, seemingly inconsequential moments of daily living, we formed a bond over the years that was more beautiful than we could ever have imagined. As the wedding party and guests came together to watch two become one, our preparations beforehand honored the real beauty that filled the terrace that special day. This beauty, although breathtaking, is still but a shadow of the everlasting love, joy, and utter perfection that await all those who hope in Christ for their salvation.

Photo of Le Ann Trees

Le Ann Trees

Le Ann is a writer, editor, speaker, wife, and mom who enjoys the Southern California lifestyle, including flip-flops, the beach, riding electric bicycles along the 101, and an occasional salted caramel Americano from Lofty Coffee in Solana Beach. She is exceedingly grateful for both the loving kindness of many people and the sound Christian doctrine that helped her to keep on living after her son died in a skiing accident in 2006. She holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Westminster Seminary California. Le Ann is managing editor of Beautiful Christian Life.

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