The Ugly Church

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”  (Psalm 47:1 NIV)

There are some things so strange, you just can’t make them up.  For instance, this morning, in the newspaper I came across this headline:  “Aftermath of world’s ugliest man contest turns ugly”  I probably could have come up with a better headline such as “faces turn sour over ugliest  man contest.”  But be that as it may, it grabbed my attention enough to read it.

It turns out it’s not really a world contest, but the ugliest man in Zimbabwe contest. The reigning champ has been declared the ugliest man three years running. Rather than being a disheartening thing, he is very proud of his station in life.

This year, however, the mighty have fallen. He lost to  a man who not only suffers from being fairly homely ,but  has several lost teeth and the ones he has are misshapen.  The poor dental work, whcih add to his ability to contort his face, gave him what the others believe to be an unfair advantage over anyone else in the contest.

I’m going  to let that one sink in for a second. This is a case of someone complaining that they are not ugly enough and that it’s unfair someone else might be uglier than they re.  Of course we all want to have pride in ourselves and we all want some notoriety for something in life. I’m not sure this is what I would pick, but at least I understand their angst.

But it seems strange doesn’t it to argue over who is uglier? Why would we want to portray an ugly face to the world? Why would we choose not to have beauty?

But in some ways that’s exactly what the church does. There are times when I wonder if the church, and by that I mean you and I as the Body of Christ, are attempting to  win some sort of ugly religious people contest. Look at how many of us portray the Body of Christ on social media. We spew out anger and ugliness on others. We lift up an ugly portrait of the church.

But it’s more than that isn’t it? It’s more than an unfortunate  ugliness we portray behind a keyboard and screen.  There seems to be, within many of us, a simple absence of joy  that leads to an unattractive faith.  We spend so much time focusing on the doom and gloom of life. We act as if having fun, or smiling is the unforgivable sin. We apologize for any frivolity in life. We walk around with cramped faces, cramped hearts.  In short, its ugly.

And that’s not what the church is supposed to be. We are to be the ones with the most joy in life. After all, we have Jesus. We’ve been forgiven, we’ve been redeemed. Rather than singing dirges, we ought to be dancing, singing “The Joy Of The Lord is My Strength!”

Maybe that’s why I’ve always been attracted to people like C.S. Lewis, and G.K. Cheserton. Not just for their brilliance, but for the beauty of their faith.  They understood having fun, rejoicing with one’s friends, is sometimes one of the most holy things we can do. They fully understood that eating more than one should, laughing too loud every now and then wasn’t sinful, but a simple enjoyment of the bounty of God.  It deson’t make us less responsive to the needs of the poor, simply because we rejoice in God’s blessings.

Isn’t it time we again bring the beauty of the Church back into the world and show them true joy? We are on the cusp of the Christmas Season and this week is Thanksgiving. So laugh more. Eat more than you should on Thanksgiving, have that extra piece of pie (remember it’s a holiday we aren’t advocating gluttony). Actually  be thankful and celebrate with a little less guilt this year. There is enough ugliness in the world as it is. Let’s show the world the true beauty of a joy found in Jesus.


In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><



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