By Steven Norris

     “I’ve never heard a person use so many words to say so little in all my life.” While I found his comment hilarious in the moment, his description of this person as all style and no substance” carried some weight. After all, none of us would want to be dismissed as shallow.

     My guess is that we all have met someone that would fit such a description. Maybe it was someone who knew how to dress the part — immaculate clothing, manicured hands, and not a hair out of place — but possessed a shocking lack of character. Maybe the appearance had more to do with fancy rhetoric, an abundance of confidence, and a slick sales pitch, but the actual product was severely lacking.

     This past week, I laid to rest a dear lady in our church who died just shy of her 95th birthday. She was raised during the Great Depression. Her father died when she was only five and her mother was left to raise three girls on her own. They were shaped by these hardships in ways that produced a true depth of character and substance to her countenance.

     Standing by her graveside, we tried to articulate the hope that reassured us. I spoke these words: “We now commit our sister’s body to the ground; in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”

     In Hebrew, the understanding of “glory” is a bit different than we might think. The Hebrew word “kavod” is one that suggests weightiness and something that has substance. As we approach fall, leaves will begin falling from the trees and will be blown to and fro by the wind. As such, they have little substance. A large boulder, on the hand, is not easily moved and will not be threatened by the storm’s fury. Its “kavod” will hold it in place.

     So it is with God. To speak of God’s “glory” is to speak of character over cosmetics, substance over style, and reality over rhetoric. To speak of God’s glory is to acknowledge that the reality backs up (or substantiates) the claims made about God’s character, love, and commitment to justice and peace. God’s actions reinforce the promises we find in scripture.

     Likewise, people of faith should reflect the glory of the God we claim to follow. Describing the process of sanctification, the Apostle Paul writes, “And all of us…seeing the glory of the Lord…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). That glory (substance) shows up in concrete ways through honesty, integrity, generosity, justice, service, hospitality, compassion, and grace. It is not altered by the shifting circumstances of popular culture or the crisis of the day.

     My hope is that all people of faith will be committed to the substance of character that will properly reflect God’s glory to a onlooking world.