In a recent address to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association,a nationally known speaker joked that his wife rarely passed a mirror without checking her appearance. He didn't mind, he said, because "she's my glory!"(alluding to 1 Cor. 11:7—"the woman is the glory of man").

I wondered what the men and women in the audience were thinking. Did they say to themselves, "Good for him that he's proud of his wife!"? Did the men contemplate their own wives' appearance and wonder whether it advertised their glory? Did the women compare themselves to this beautiful woman and feel insecure, ashamed, or envious?

Christians have long been of two minds about physical appearance. A hundred years ago ministers preached against the health dangers of corseting, while pious mothers went right on lacing their daughters into stays that crushed their ribs. Many today will say that inner beauty is what counts; how you look does not matter. However, the immaculately dressed ECPA speaker evidently comes from the school that thinks otherwise. And if you have tried to go to church in Dallas, get a job in New York, or find a mate in a Christian singles' group anywhere, you know he's right: for better or worse, people do judge books by covers.

Ten years ago I felt superior to those who put so much stock in appearance. I wore no makeup, had my hair cut every few months, and considered my wardrobe irrelevant to the spiritual and intellectual life I was pursuing. When otherwomen obsessed over diets broken, I remained primly silent.

Since then I have awakened to the hypocrisy of my stance. I discovered in the Bible a much richer view of beauty than I had ever heard discussed, eitherin the world or the church. But to understand the biblical notion ...

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