Friday, 16 April 2010

Beauty And The Best

We were walking down a street in Launceston today when Kim said to me- "Look at that!" I looked up to see the ugliest motor-home-thingy we had ever seen. As we crossed the street we walked right past it and both commented on what an eye-sore this vehicle was. It looked like a melted fibreglass septic tank awkwardly plonked onto the back of an ill-fitting ute. It wasn't painted. It wasn't decorated. It was even nicely finished. It looked ugly. But then I thought, why does it matter what it looks like as long as it's functional. This thought didn't stay unanswered for very long before I thought about the nature of "beauty" and how God has created us to appreciate beauty.
Psalm 50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
God is the "perfection of beauty". We are created in His image and therefore have an intrinsic appreciation for beauty. Because of this appreciation for beauty we paint our houses, our cars and even our faces. When Kim and I recently went hiking with Nik and Heidi last week, I asked Nik why he liked bushwalking. He said the actual walking didn't really appeal to him, but being able to gaze upon natural beauty did. He said that being in the bush enabled him to see the world the way God had created it. And who can disagree with him? There are some breath-taking natural sights on this planet that are universally acknowledged as "beautiful". CS Lewis marvelled at this phenomena in his book The Abolition of Manwhere he argues that our appreciation and love for beauty is one of the greatest proofs for God. Lewis cites a critic of objective appreciation of beauty who claimed that 'beauty' was nothing more than an opinion. But CS Lewis argues that certain things are beautiful (he also uses the word "sublime") not just because of someone's opinion but because certain beautiful things are intrinsically beautiful.
One of the amazing moss forests on the Arm River walk to Pelion Hut
Zech. 9:17 For how great is His goodness, and how great His beauty!
Biblically, the word beautiful is associated with God, with God's presence (including heaven and the Temple), God's servants (including their feet when they bring good news (Isaiah 52:7), and their apparel when they served Him in the Tabernacle), and God's creation.
Psalm 96:6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in His sanctuary
Interestingly though, the word beautiful is most applied to women in the Bible. I'm actually married to a woman (for nearly 22 years) and I can definitely report that she is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid my eyes on. While sin has corrupted human nature and has distorted a man's appreciation of a woman's beauty into crude lust, it is possible to look at a woman and conclude: she is beautiful, without being impure. Yet the Bible acknowledges that appreciation of a woman's beauty has been corrupted and counsels women not to accentuate their beauty so that men are likely to lust-
First Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— 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.
Psalm 27:4 ¶ One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
The word Hebrew word for "glory" in the Old Testament is often translated at "beauty" in English. The most apt description of God in the Bible is: He is glorious.
Exodus 15:11 “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Because God is beautiful and we are created in His image, we are created to recognise and appreciate and value beauty. This is why we can describe something as "ugly" or "bleak" and something else as "beautiful". This is also why we can appreciate art, fashion, music, and literature as beautiful. Its why we look to decorate, paint, plant, rearrange our worlds. Its also why we can see a home-made motor-home and judge it to be unattractive.
Beauty is something we all possess. In one sense, it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but perhaps this is only half of the story since true beauty is often more than what the eye immediately sees. As one great English writer put it, to appreciate true beauty we must stop seeing the world with our eyes and start seeing the world through our eyes.
No matter what opinion you have of yourself, there is Someone who regards you as beautiful because you are created in His image. Even if others have caused you to believe that you are worthless, the truth is actually different. God sees you as beautiful. But He sees what sin has done to all of us - how it has uglified us - and this is why He sent His Son into this fallen and once-far-more-beautiful-world as Someone who did not have any of the world's beauty-
Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
The Son of God came into the world without His glory and without any physical attractiveness. It's interesting that none of the four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) ever mention any of the physical attributes of Christ. Yet after reading their Gospels we are left overwhelmed with the magnificent beauty of Christ and hungering to know more about Him. We can see then that the One who world rejected was in actual fact the most Attractive Person in the universe. It is my hope that the next time we paint, decorate, rearrange, tidy-up, construct, or repair, we will consider that we might well be doing so because humans are uniquely created in the image of God who is not only beautiful but is also passionate about beauty.
Father, may we see more clearly Your incredible beauty and magnificence. May we also see what you have created as beautiful, including those who initially do not appear to be so. May we delight in celebrating beauty- in our bodies, our homes, our cars, our city and our church. Cause us to be besotted with the infinite beauty of Your now glorified Son. Grant it Oh God that we take our eyes off ourselves and begin to look at this world not just with our eyes but through our eyes, in Jesus' Name,

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