Image vs. Character

We have no idea what Jesus looked like. No clue if He was tall or short, muscular or chubby. Did he have acne as a boy?

The disciples we allot physical types to. Peter, the Rock, was a fisherman. Muscular, ruddy complexion and imposing physical size. Levi, Tax collector. Less impressive, perhaps he looked like Danny DeVito.

But we have no descriptions. David was described as “ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12), and we know Moses didn’t think much of himself, but we couldn’t pick them out in a line up.

I think there’s a wisdom in that that is overlooked. The disciples who walked with Jesus didn’t recognise him cooking breakfast on the shore after the resurrection. They saw initially with their physical eyes, rather than their Spiritual eyes.

I knew a man many years ago who was a farmer up on the wild moorland in Devon. He spoke little and listened a great deal. His appearance was one that would have caused many to pass him by and pay no attention, but there was something in his gait that spoke more strongly than words. He had a presence about him from spending many hours alone in the wilderness on the moors with just his Bible for company. Eric was a man who spoke with authority because he knew his God.

Image meant nothing to Mark. He was born blind, and was offered prayer in his 20’s by a man who had seen blind eyes created seeing in the past through the power of God. He refused because he didn’t want his experience of God to be watered down by sight!

There are many more examples of men and women who have joyfully sought to rid themselves of any kind of image in order to find the Truth.

In the current climate Image is everything. Here in South Africa, Julius Malema – Leader of the ANC Youth League – regularly speaks out about anything and everything so he can change feet. Jacob Zuma, National President, said at a recent rally that a vote for the ANC means you go to heaven. The image that portrays is truly terrifyng!

Young men in particular are falling victim to the image-mongers. Cars, suits, hairstyle, skin condition, sunglasses are all essentials to say “I am a success”. Young women are bombarded with images on magazines like never before of “perfect” celebrities – but not told the details of the airbrushing that took them there. A few years ago I worked in Torquay, Devon, when some actors and actresses appearing in the local theater came into my place of work to relax. I stood and chatted to them for a while, then helped them get set up and enjoy their evening, totally unaware of who I was talking to, because out of make-up and costume they were just men and women like you and me. It turned out that when one of these men had been on TV, I’d been an avid fan and not missed an episode, but I couldn’t connect the real man with the character he’d portrayed – and rightly so!

Any magazine stand will scream the latest gossip from the covers about Charlie Sheen’s antics or Britney’s new hair or some other individual who we’ll have forgotten by next week existed as if the future of the human race depended on it. It’s all image.

George Burns made a series of movies in his later years in which he played both God and Satan. The Satan character had the flashy cars, suave suits, fawning women and money very obviously in his hand. The God character had a more “everyman” look to him. Grey jacket, loafers, flat cap and understated. Obviously, the characters were initially drawn to the flashy guy in the red suit, but as the movies progressed they found the image was hollow and the gentle guy in grey who was quietly waiting for them and offering advice ended up being the way they found they had to go to have peace.

In his song “Hollywood”, Michael Buble sings “Remember when you’re rich that you sold yourself for this – You’ll be famous coz you’re dead” It’s a great line, but how it gets lost in society.

Image is not improtant if you mean how others see you. What is important is Character, the person we are when nobody’s around to pat our back and say well done. That’s the image we should develop. It comes through every time.

For what we are in our most private moments is who we are. I’m a quiet guy with a bad temper that thankfully is mellowing with age, who longs to be a dad, a leader, a writer, a singer, but mostly a Husband and a Lover of God. I don’t care if people notice and ignore or notice and praise or even attack me for my beliefs and the way I live. I have chosen to develop my character. Granted it’s a work in progress, but I’m on the road at least.

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