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Image. We're all concerned with it, whether we use a consultant or ask “does my bum look big in this?”  I'm intrigued by the advertising campaign for Nip/Tuck - “The new hit TV series” on Sky One, which launched in the US to critical acclaim and impressive ratings.  Times Online asks, “Why is television so obsessed with plastic surgery?”  Apparently “there are virtually whole channels devoted to rhinoplasty … along with dozens and dozens of one-offs … like When Good Implants Go Bad and Keep a Straight Face.  They are radical reality makeover shows.”

In the UK, 100,000 operations worth £225m a year are double that of five years ago.  25% of women and 15% of men would seriously consider cosmetic surgery, from facelift to tummy tuck, from breast / buttock augmentation to botox injection.  And something's working: 45-year-old Madonna at the Grammy award ceremony looked like a teenager.

Should Christians take care of their appearance?  Familiar arguments are based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (eg “glorify God in your body”) or the extravagance of the God who created the majesty of the tiger or the beauty of the butterfly (do we really glorify him by looking dull or dowdy?).  Meanwhile Samuel's words reverberate down the ages, reminding us that “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).  Similarly 1 Peter 3:3 (do read it in its cultural context): “let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight”.  Perhaps we should take care of our appearance - after all we are made in the image of the God of glory - whilst accepting, not fighting, our mortality.

Last Sunday's readings in many churches focussed on image; did you notice?  The word metamorphoo occurs four times in the New Testament:

*  Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2, of Jesus, translated "transfigured";
*  Romans 12:2 in which we are called to be transformed, for God's sake and for ours;
*  2 Cor 3:18 which is about how others see us - our image.

The thrust is that all Christian believers are ministers of the new covenant of grace, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4).  And the dynamic is of presence, activity, struggle, and incarnation (4:8-9).

“The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you shalom” (Num 6:25-6).  As I spend time with the gracious Lord whose face shines, his shalom wholeness develops - divine plastic surgery!  Then, as celebs work hard to be seen at the Baftas, we will be in the mucky and murky places of this world “so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:11).  Image indeed.

Yours in Him

Peter Nicholls

WANTED: five more learners for the Lent course Called to be Holy.  4 units:
- What actually is holiness?
- Why holiness matters
- Practical, everyday holiness
- Coping with unholiness.

Starts this week, follow this link for more.

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