Julia Bluhm is the fourteen year old girl who successfully changed the way Seventeen Magazine will do business. Julia encouraged more than 85,000 people to sign a petition asking the magazine to stop photoshopping their models. She said that distorting the truth of the pictures was causing a lot of young women to feel badly about themselves, possibly contributing to things like depression, bulimia and anorexia. Seventeen Magazine signed what they are calling their “Body Peace Treaty” vowing never again to alter a girl’s body or face shape in their photos. Good for the magazine and most especially, good for Julia. The advent of the internet to create “movements” means now, as never before, we have the power to influence this world to be a better, more honest, place. Julia’s story made me remember a workshop I attended at a writer’s conference last Fall. Steven James is a Christian author who takes a lot of heat for his novels. Some people feel that they are too graphic, edgy and violent. They contend his novels should not be considered “Christian” fiction. I’ve not read his novels, because I know they are graphic, edgy and violent – but I would disagree that those qualities should disqualify his novels from being called Christian. I could refer them to some biblical passages that they would probably want to censor as well! In fact, that was a point Stephen James was making in that workshop. His purpose that day was to cause us to think carefully about our tendencies to soften the Scriptures, so that our readers or audience would find God’s word more appealing. I remember he looked at the room and asked us, “When did God give us permission to “edit” his words?” I guess I should insert a disclaimer at this point in the blog. Read on at your own risk – I plan on revealing some Scriptures to you in their original, pre-photoshopped, language. I think we need to think about doing with the Bible, what Seventeen Magazine has done with their photos. We need to see these verses truthfully – like God intended them. More importantly, we need to ask God to teach us what he intended us to know.
The NIV version translates Isaiah 64:6 as, “All of us has become like someone who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.” The word translated filthy is the Hebrew word “ayd,” meaning a woman’s menstrual rags. Leviticus 15:19 labels a woman during menstruation “unclean” and anyone who touched her during that time would be considered unclean as well. She would have been isolated and on the eighth day she would bathe herself, go to the temple and present herself to a priest. The priest would proclaim her “clean” and only then was she able to make a sacrifice to God. Now, reread Isaiah 64:6 and think about how God perceives our righteous acts. Isaiah was telling the people that it didn’t matter if they did something that appeared righteous, if they acted from an “unclean” or sinful life. Isaiah told the people that their righteous act should be considered like those rags and as a shriveled leaf, that blows away in the wind. Has photoshopping the word “filthy” kept you from understanding how God views the sin in our lives? Or the times we think doing a “righteous act” makes up for that sin? Isaiah would ask you to consider God’s point of view on that subject.
Isaiah 57:8 contains the phrase, “you looked on their nakedness” and means you looked at the sexual organ. Isaiah was condemning the worship of idols saying that the people looked upon their idols with the same lust found in an adulterous relationship. That is how God perceives our interest in this world’s idols.
Paul wrote to the Philippians saying, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8). The word we translate “rubbish” was the Greek word “skubalon” meaning human excrement. Paul was talking about all of the “righteousness” he had tried to gain as a Pharisee. His earlier belief that circumcision, his zeal in persecuting the Christians, his legalistic adherence to the letter of the Law would earn him God’s favor. Paul said he now considered those acts “skubalon.” I’ll allow you to insert your own translation. (Not you M.!)
Julia Bluhm encouraged a magazine to be honest in the way they presented their models to the world. I’d like to encourage all of us to be completely honest in the way we present God to the world. I often turn the television on to hear a preacher saying things like, “God loves you just like you are.” That is photoshopped truth. The whole truth: God loves you as you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay as you are. To the preacher who says, “Give your money and God will bless you for doing that.” Understand that Paul would say, “if your heart isn’t pure” that “righteous act” is just a bunch of . . .”skubalon.”
It matters what you do today. More importantly, for God, it matters why you are doing it. “The whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help us, God.”