All things bright and beautiful - Word&Way

All things bright and beautiful

Let’s face it. For most of us, beauty has never been at the top of our “most important doctrines” list. Perhaps we should reconsider. But let’s remember that our Maker probably sees spatial beauty and facial beauty differently.

Doyle SagerFirst, consider spatial beauty. Have you ever walked into a beautiful worship space and immediately sensed the wonder of God’s transcendence? Old Testament scholar Matthew Schlimm reminds us that beauty is one of the characteristics of holiness. Simply stated, the Jewish temple was designed to take one’s breath away, to say, “God is here; this is no ordinary space and God is no ordinary being. God is beautiful and is more than words can say.”

Don’t get me wrong. The Lord of the Cosmos is not limited to buildings. Every spring, God puts on a show of colors, splashing the good earth with azaleas, jonquils, red buds and dogwoods. So indoors or outside, beauty can be a portal to the divine, a doorway into mystery. Read Scripture carefully and you will see a connection between beauty and truth, beauty and holiness, beauty and grace.

Moving from spatial to facial beauty, we discover a strange truth. When it comes to human beings, God does not place a premium on physical beauty. In fact, the famous Suffering Servant song in Isaiah 53:2 describes the Coming One: “There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look” (The Message). In a world obsessed with flawless physiques, our faith focuses on the beauty of brokenness. God promises to bestow “beauty instead of ashes” on the grieving and brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:3).

Look how far we have drifted from God’s priority of inner beauty. Ask any school counselor about the number of students who suffer from eating disorders or self-esteem issues related to body shape. What teenager can endure culture’s withering pressure to have a perfect body? For that matter, I don’t know of any adult who can permanently stave off the effects of gravity and time.

The beauty God offers has nothing to do with the glamorous people we see on the cover of tabloids. Spiritual beauty goes deeper. How freeing to know that in God’s grace, perfect body shape and flawless features are no longer the criteria by which we are evaluated. What would happen if we found our definition of beauty in our relationship with Christ and not in the latest fashion magazine?

Parker Palmer recently stated that our culture is “really messed up about beauty.” He goes on to cite the famous painter Rembrandt, who “found beauty in aging [and] physical diminishment….” My son is a professional artist and recently reminded me that Rembrandt broke with tradition when doing self-portraiture. He painted his own likeness with a degree of harshness and reality. Instead of dressing in expensive clothes and jewelry as was the custom, he wore a simple frock. In other words, his countenance was not contrived or artificial; it was natural.

Ephesians 2:10 declares that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus….” The word “workmanship” in the Greek is poi-ay-mah, from which we get our word poetry. We are God’s poetry, God’s artistic expression, God’s masterpiece. Look up. Look around. Look within. God makes beautiful things!

Doyle Sager ( is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.