October 29, 2014 (first posted December 30, 2010)
“The New Benediction Project”
I’m sick and tired of ugly—anything and everything ugly. I’m sick of violence, war, famine, human trafficking, disease, rape, materialism, injustice, idolatry, hunger, rage, lying, adultery, greed, loneliness, grief, self-hatred, addictions, corruption, senseless noise, and a thousand other evils!
Here I want to focus on beauty. The Oxford American Dictionary defines beauty first of all as “a combination of qualities that give pleasure to the sight or other senses or to the mind.” I believe there is more beauty than ugliness in our world, and I trust my reasoning will become evident in the thoughts to follow. Here are a few of my favorite beautiful things.
Christian Character. Other than God himself, a mature, wise, virtuous person, living in harmony with his or her Creator and Lord, is the most beautiful individual thing in the world. Nothing else that I know of meets so well the definition of beauty mentioned above.
Is there a man or woman you know—perhaps several—with such a sterling Christian character that you long to be around them, listen to them, and try to learn what makes them tick? This person, among other things, is unselfish, kind, and suffers well. He or she is concerned for children, teens, the differently-abled, the elderly, and “working” adults (what a strange term). The man or woman of deep Christian character has a beautiful soul. This person is not perfect—just beautiful! (I Cor. 13:4-8; Gal. 5:22-23)
Personal Relationships. Real beauty, flowing from the person of Christian character, can be seen when two or more such persons are living, working, discussing, studying, worshipping, playing, or serving others together. There is not a lot of beauty in the one, however appealing he or she may seem to be individually, who cannot exist in harmony with others. The home, the church, the school, the workplace, the playing field—these are the places where real beauty can shine. I love to see people in close friendships, strong marriages and effective working arrangements. This does not mean that there are never disagreements—sometimes vigorous ones—but that love and unity of purpose sustain the relationships for the good of all (Ps. 133:1-3;
12: 9-18). Rom.
Loving Churches. At first I was inclined to write “vibrant” churches or “Spirit-filled” churches. As I thought about it, however, I realized that love (closely aligned with unity) is the true mark of a Christian and a Christian church. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” This is biblical (Jn. ; I Cor. 13:3).
When the Pharisees asked Jesus “which is the greatest commandment in the Law” (they had 613 laws), Jesus said it was to “Love the Lord your God.” He then added the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. -40). Strong Christian individuals amid solid personal relationships and loving churches constitute a triad of beauty superior to every other created thing, including the choirs of angels and the wonders of nature. A loving church not only cares for its own but for those in its community, its country, and its world. Such churches consist of loving and humble Christians committed to promoting justice and mercy and the whole truth of God until the end of the ages. (Mic. 6:8; Mt. 28:18-20)
God. Above all else, there is God. Above all angels, natural wonders, creations of humankind, loving churches, strong relationships, and men and women of excellent Christian character, there is God. The reason Jesus said to love God above all else is because God IS above all else. To love anything else supremely is to love something less than God, and that is idolatry.
God has always existed and will forever exist as one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. ). This is a great mystery, especially concerning the incarnation. The doctrine of the trinity is beyond our full logical comprehension but is not illogical.
The Bible also teaches that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8), but how can this be? Can this teaching assist us to understand the trinity? Some have suggested (helpfully, I believe) that God as a single person—a “monad”—could not give and receive love without an “other,” an object of that love. Thus the Godhead must exist as a “dyad” (two persons) at least. But in order for these two persons to have a nonexclusive love, a love that is shared, there must be at least a triad—a Trinity. God’s threefold eternal dance of love “within” the Godhead and “outside of” the Godhead is complete and perfect, and serves as the supreme model for all human love.
God is the only uncreated beauty. Although he is beautiful beyond description, we do well to ponder some of the qualities of our great God. Theologians often distinguish between God’s perfections in himself (such as eternity and omnipotence) and God’s perfections that extend to his personal creatures (such as mercy and justice). Sometimes these are called the non-moral and moral perfections (attributes) of God. To God, however, these are all one, and never conflict within themselves.
Lord, you are altogether lovely, and nothing I desire compares to you. Help me not to focus on the ugly, but on the beautiful. (Phil. 4:8)