Theology and Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Inner Not Outer


From A Sign of Four

Watson: “What a very attractive woman!” I exclaimed, turning to my companion.

He had lit his pipe again and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. “Is she?” he said languidly; “I did not observe.”

Watson: “You really are an automaton — a calculating machine,” I cried. “There is something positively inhuman in you at times.”

He smiled gently.

Sherlock: “It is of the first importance,” he cried, “not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.”

What Signs Do We Look For?

In this story, Sherlock Holmes receives a case from a woman, whom Dr. Watson finds to be exceptionally attractive. As she leaves 221B, Watson vocalizes his opinion of her exterior, only to find Sherlock’s feelings are not the same. Holmes then goes on to illustrate that outward appearances should not be the basis of one’s judgment, and that what we see on the outside, like a murderous woman, or philanthropist man, may not always be true to what is on the inside. Sherlock Holmes understood what so many Christians should understand, but so often do not; our value of people should be based on their inner character, not their outer beauty. Sherlock’s desire to help people was based on what they needed, not what they looked like. Can the same be said of us?

A Problem of the Internal Regarding Externals

Throughout Scripture, God’s ultimate approval of people is not based on what they look like, but who they are, on their heart. A famous passage which shows this is 1 Samuel 16:7, one I am sure many of you know, which says “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God’s fleshof people, His value of them, is not about what is on their body, but what was in their heart. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Beauty goes beyond the physical flesh, true beauty is an expression, a manifestation, of ones spirit, especially when their spirit is in Christ. Some of the most radiant beauty I have ever seen, in both males and females, have been the acts of Christ working through them, not their own efforts, clothed, even painted, onto them. A person is at their peak of attractiveness, not when their body is ripped in muscle, or exposing flesh, but when they are living in, acting on, their position in Christ

We do not always see things this way though. I mean if I am honest, I do not. Our basis for a person’s worth or character is so often based on what they look like. Many Christian women care more about a man with a solid body, than a solid walk with the Lord, just as many Christian men care more about a woman who shows her physical self in flesh, than her spiritual self in Christ. How sad is this?! Sorry to say it, but this is often the reality. There truly is nothing pretty about it. And we all do it?! Our culture is very much driven by the idea of finding worth in the physical body, of both ourselves and others, but is that really how God intended it to be? Should my desire to build friendships with my sisters in Christ based on how attractive they are, or the character they possess? Is it right for me to look down on my brothers, whom I feel do not dress to a certain standard, or have different habits of hygiene? Certainly, I would say no to each of these questions, but knowing what is the right thing to do, and actually doing it, especially in this case, seems to be more easily said than done.  In James 2:9 James says “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” In the context, the people James was writing to in verse 9, were in verses 2:1-7, giving preferential treatment to people based on financial status, treating those who were rich, better than those who were poor. They judged based on externals, and James told them what they were doing was wrong, that it was sin. The same is true when we find a persons value, allow our motivation to be, a persons outside, not their inside. The most physically beautiful people can be some of the ugliest spiritually, and the most physically ugly people, can be some of the most beautiful spiritually. What it comes down to is, we have to redefine what beauty is, and give beauty a definition that is of God and not the world. To change how we look at people, we have to change the ways in which we define them.

A Solution It Does Not Take Sherlock Holmes To See

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

My challenge to both myself and you, is to genuinely view people, interact with people, based on who they are, not what they look like. Christ did not direct His ministry, His message, toward select people, He directed it toward all people. Who are the people we look down upon because they are different, because they do not meet some sort of aesthetic standard created by ourselves or the world? If Christians cannot love and accept people based on interiors not exteriors, nobody can. We may not be able to change the culture, but we can set a tone that the culture sees, a tone that sets us apart from it. Start a conversation with someone who normally does not match your visual standard, who you would typically judge by the outward before the inward. It takes someone really ugly, to center their friendships, their ministry, only around those who are pretty. In your existing relationships with people, get to know them on a deeper level. Ask complex questions, find out what drives them, what they are passionate about, their joys, their hurts, conversations that go deeper in their character, beyond their outward appearance. Beauty flees, the outward fades, and if our relationships, our view of people, is based on appearances, our friendships, even our own security, will never last. What we do not see of people, will forever outlive that which we do. Just as God looks at our heart, not our outward appearance, our goal should be to bestow that same gift upon others. Do we really care so little about other people, that what they look like should make a difference in our value of them?

For the previous Theology and Sherlock Holmes, follow the link below…


About Chronology of Chris

-In Christ -Student of Life, Theology, Philosophy and Education -Avid reader (C.S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, Martin Luther, Luis de Molina, Gordon D. Fee, David R. Anderson, David Kinnaman, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Hunter S. Thompson, Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jean Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard, etc.) -Amateur philosopher -Field researcher for this privilege called life -Defined not labelled -Silly, yet serious -Knowledgeable and experienced -People over facts( facts have their place), souls over figures -More than an "about me" box can contain -His will, not mine
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