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A closer look at that ‘handsome’ mug shot

Johnathan Kana

Most people in the world had never heard of Jeremy Meeks less than two weeks ago. But that was before the 30-year-old’s “handsome” mug shot went viral on a California police department’s Facebook page, generating more than 2,400 comments in less than 24 hours. Within days, the photo had been shared more than 11,000 times and had attracted no fewer than 86,000 “likes.”

Meeks’ bail was set at $1 million; he faces firearm, felon in possession of a firearm and gang-related charges. What’s more, he has prior convictions for grand theft and resisting arrest - not exactly good material for a personals ad. Yet that hasn’t stopped dozens of women from echoing the sentiment of at least one Facebook commenter: “He can kidnap me any day.”

Not all remarks have been so amorous, of course, but there’s something deeply disturbing about the basic current of this story. It’s an example of how social media can have a way of drawing out and documenting our most reprobate affections. At best, Meeks’ admirers compartmentalize his physical attractiveness, ignoring the person behind the features or else projecting onto them a more desirable personality of their own imagination. At worst, they’re titillated by the whole package - handsome mug and “bad boy” persona alike. Which makes me wonder: would they feel the same attraction if his charges included more objectionable offenses like injury to a child or aggravated sexual assault? I’m guessing not.

Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

Perhaps this comes as a timely reminder of how easily we fixate on outward appearances. I can almost hear the Spirit intoning God’s words to Samuel when he mistakenly assumed that tall and handsome Eliab would succeed Saul as king of Israel: “People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.” God rejected handsome Saul on account of his perverse, adulterous heart, choosing instead to anoint a diminutive young shepherd-musician. David, as we well know, went on to commit heinous acts of adultery and murder. Yet in spite of his flaws, Scripture immortalizes him as “a man after God’s own heart.”

Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

I don’t know the heart of Jeremy Meeks. What I do know is that Jesus bled and died for him - and for me - so that sinners like us might exchange the smut of our unrighteousness for the excellence of Christ. I also know that, left to ourselves, we see beauty where there is filth. Worse, we see only filth where God sees the beauty of His Son. As a follower of Christ, it’s my responsibility to look beyond outward appearances, discerning the beauty of others not with carnal eyes, but with the Spirit’s insight and the Savior’s heart.

Rather than clicking our tongues at Meeks’ misguided admirers, let’s take a moment to pray for the welfare of his family and to confess our own proclivity - even eagerness - to be misled by a handsome mug. May we never forget that the most beautiful man who ever walked this earth had “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

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