Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cover or Contents

A recent article told how interior designers are purchasing antique leather-bound books to use for decorating. It noted one person who purchased 13,000 antique books to give his home a library look. Unfortunately, these books were used to match the room’s décor and their primary purpose was for show. They had not been purchased to be read.

Rev. Timothy Satryan, commenting on this article, noted “Focusing on outward appearances can be a pleasing way to decorate a house, but it’s a dangerous way to live. Jesus reprimanded many religious leaders of His day because they did not practice what they preached. They were addicted to receiving praise and feeling self important.” I wonder how many times do we live in the same manner? How often do we focus more on the outside façade rather than what is inside? It is as dangerous for us as it was for the Pharisees.

In many ways our lives are like a book. Book covers are often beautiful, enticing us to want to pick up the book and read it. The cover is the person we present to others. But the contents are who we really are. The contents describe all the joys, struggles, fears, successes and defeats we experience in our daily lives. While our cover looks pleasing and well put together, our content may be rather messy or even downright ugly.

One of the temptations that the church struggles with today is the temptation to pride and the desire to be acceptable by society. We don’t want to allow ourselves to be really known. We try to put our best foot forward. We seek to be attractive to the world. We promote seeker friendly services where everyone will be comfortable. We build beautiful edifices that are pleasing to the eye. The sanctuary contains the latest in high tech audio visual equipment. Our televised services are almost theatrical. They show the beautiful people. But these are all covers. They are all shallow. They speak nothing about the content of our lives. They avoid showing the spiritual warts, cancers and deformities that we bring to God for healing. They don’t show us to be a sinful people who have been redeemed by the grace of God. No one can see that inside we may be wounded and hurting. They don’t show us to be people who may be struggling with temptation, or barely holding on as we struggle with the difficulties of life. This type of coverup also becomes very defeating. When looking at all the beautiful facades around us, it is easy to begin to think that we alone are the only ones who are experiencing difficulties in our lives. We can think that we are the only ones who don’t have it all together. This can cause us a real crisis of faith. By wearing a façade, we hurt each other.

God is interested in our inner being, not our outer facades. He wants us to love him with our whole heart, soul mind and strength. In other words, he desires that we be in relationship with him with our total being. He is concerned about what is inside, in the depths of our hearts. Rev. Satryan says it well. ”We are to be people of inner substance, not just outward appearance. Our content is far more important than our cover. We are here for more than show.” His comment leads us to ask “Am I a person of inner substance or only a person of outward appearance? The answer to that question makes all the difference in the world.

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