The British luxury liner the RMS Queen Mary was launched in 1936, the largest ship ever to set sail at that time: 1019 feet in length, 81,200 tons, able to carry 2139 passengers and 1100 crew. It took three-and-a-half years to build at a cost of $17.5 million US dollars, equivalent to $335 million today.
She served faithfully for three decades – including one World War – then was retired in 1967 and turned into a floating museum anchored off Long Beach, CA. When she arrived she needed a major face lift and overhaul. (Perhaps some of us can relate ….)
Her three enormous smoke stacks were removed to be scraped down and repainted, but upon setting them down on the dock, they all crumbled into piles of rust. Nothing was left of the original 3/4” steel plates from which the smoke stacks had been formed. All that remained were the thirty coats of paint that had been applied over the years: the steel itself was completely gone, long since oxidized by the seawater and salt spray and turned into rust.
Um, that’s fascinating, Kent, but … is there a point in here somewhere? I’m so glad you asked.
We live in a time and a culture that is absolutely obsessed with outward appearances, superficial beauty, fashion and the like. Want to guess which city leads the nation in money spent on cosmetic surgery …?
You got it. The one we live in.
Beauty is not a bad thing. It is not wrong to want to look your best. It becomes a problem, however, when we become so preoccupied with our outward appearances we neglect or completely ignore the far more important issue of developing our inner character, our spiritual beauty.
For the past several weeks on Sundays we’ve been taking an in-depth look at the life of King David. By all accounts he was an unlikely choice to be king of ancient Israel, much less its greatest king. The youngest, and smallest, of eight brothers, son of a common farmer and herdsman named Jesse, living in a little, insignificant place called Bethlehem, David was literally the last person the prophet Samuel expected God to choose.
Speaking of why David’s older brother Eliab was not God’s choice to be anointed by Samuel, even though he (Eliab) was tall and handsome and looked the part, 1 Samuel 16:7 says:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (emphasis added).
Moral of the story: Regardless of our external appearance, God sees into our innermost being, what we’re truly like in our hearts.
When we strip away all the outer layers of religious talk and the posturing we do for one another – what’s left? A heart (and mind, and soul) that truly loves God and our neighbors, the two greatest commandments, according to Jesus? Or are we so consumed with externals, the surface stuff we allow others to see, that we have no time and energy left over to give to following Jesus, to being his disciples, to becoming more and more like him? To:
- Worship the Lord – individually and corporately
- Grow in his grace – privately and in community
- Serve his people – and his world, starting in the local community
I hope this past year-and-a-half, this difficult, aggravating, challenging, unprecedented experience, has taught us the importance of attending to that inner beauty, that inner character development. The kind that never fades away or dissolves into rust. It grows brighter, stronger and more beautiful over time.