Where beauty comes from

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I have recently been introduced to a new organization that has chosen beauty along with truth and goodness as one of its core values. I think this is splendid. Beauty has never been an important value in evangelical Christianity, at least as long as I’ve been around. It’s been there and has influenced various aspects of the Christian life, but not necessarily as a stated, intentional goal. I remember in the 1970s, Edith Schaeffer came out with a book, Hidden Art, in which she talked about the value of surrounding ourselves with beauty. It was sort of an art-in-everyday-life book. But beyond that, I know of no one who has done a lot of thinking about beauty from a Christian standpoint. We need to start.

In the 20th century, Christians built a reputation for being drab, dull and behind the times. In the first half of the century, the majority of Christian women didn’t wear makeup or fancy clothes. For a woman to accentuate her beauty was sinful. Some of this probably came from a Victorian view of sex, but also from a misinterpretation of Peter’s admonition to women: “Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:2-4). He does not say women should not fix their hair, wear jewelry and dresses, but that they should not rely only on their external beauty, but also cultivate the inner beauty of their heart and spirit. The critical word “merely” was missed in translation.

But beauty is not just in how we present ourselves or what we surround ourselves with; it’s how we look at what we see, or, as they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This is certainly the way it is with God. God looks at us and sees beauty, not because we are unusually attractive, but because His love gives us value. He sees the beauty in us that we don’t see. He makes us beautiful to Himself. In fact, He is in the process of making us into His bride without spot or blemish. Learning to love ourselves comes from believing that God loves us like this — that we are desirable to Him. Knowing that we are desirable to God makes us desirable to others. And knowing that God sees beauty in everyone makes us able to see that beauty too, should we choose to. It is the way His grace toward us can be turned outward towards others.

God sees beauty in what He is remaking.

     Jump in the mess of human lives undressed

     And sin unconfessed… and see beauty.

     Look at the sea of misfits and misery

     And cry ’til you bleed… and see beauty.

     That’s what God does!

     That’s what God does!

     That’s what God does! Why can’t we?

            – The rock group, Skypark

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3 Responses to Where beauty comes from

  1. Mark D Seguin says:

    Loved this: “… knowing that God sees beauty in everyone makes us able to see that beauty too, should we choose to. It is the way His grace toward us can be turned outward towards others.”

  2. John A Fagliano says:

    Beauty involves more than just the sense of sight. I’m reminded of this when I hear the Stevie Wonder song “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” For me, it brings memories of bright sunny days when you can see the beauty of nature reflecting the sun’s vast brightness. It can make you feel bright inside. Then I’m reminded that Stevie Wonder, blind from birth, has NEVER seen a sunny day. What could the song mean to him? He would know that the sun is out when he feels it’s warmth. Beauty can touch people in different ways. There is no shortage of beauty in God’s creation.

    “I see all of Your creations as one perfect complex. No one less beautiful or more special than the next” From the song “Love… Thy Will be Done” – Martika and Prince

    Now that I’ve mentioned two songs, I have to say the one you posted also has a very powerful message!

  3. Markus says:

    Personally, I believe that many people have a very unhealthy attitude towards physical beauty. They either value it too much thereby ignoring the person, or too little by assuming that physical beauty cannot go hand in hand with inner beauty. And yes, I believe that this is a serious problem, because it objectives people in one way, or another. It simply ignores the fact that a physically beautiful person can either be a nice person, or a not so nice person. You just cannot tell at first glance. The same goes the other way around. A person who lacks physical beauty can also be ugly on the inside. You just cannot tell at first glance either.

    And yet, I believe that inner beauty is more important. Physical beauty does not seem to have an effect on a person’s inner beauty, while inner beauty can certainly enhance a person’s physical beauty. Have you ever seen two people in love looking at each other? This love that is in the air in such a moment greatly enhances their physical beauty immensely! This does not mean that I believe that physical beauty is entirely unimportant, just less important.

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