The Beauty of the Gospel

When I attended Baylor University years ago, I made it a point to visit my favorite spot on campus quite often. At least once a week, I would walk to the Armstrong-Browning Library, a remarkable building that houses the greatest collection of materials and artifacts related to Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Upon every visit, I would spend hours reading their various sonnets to one another, viewing the artifacts that once belonged to their estate, and journaling about the various paintings and statues that were monuments of their love toward one another. There was something about being in the presence of true beauty that calmed my soul, renewed my trust in God’s infinite beauty, and made me long for Him all the more. I call it true beauty because it was more than a sentimental, feel-good “prettiness;” it was a beauty that was rooted in truth and reality.

The concept of beauty is often misunderstood by the world, and is wrongly characterized as superficial, lacking depth and rooted-ness in reality. Terry Yount writes, “In truth, beauty is far more. Beauty reveals the gamut of human experience. True beauty is an ally of the gospel in that it parallels the human dilemma. In reality, a rose is beautiful, but it also has thorns. ” God has instilled an affinity for beauty within us because He wants to cultivate within us that which beauty brings about: longing. When we observe something that is truly beautiful we should not be alarmed if it makes us feel somewhat uncomfortable or causes us some degree of unrest. This, in fact is the desired reaction. In this way, beauty parallels our reaction to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We, as sinners, observe the beauty of the blameless God-man, the precious Lamb of God, removing sin from us while taking it upon Himself. It stirs up within us a plethora of emotions, including shame, guilt, sheer wonder, and joy. It is somewhere in this struggle that beauty is revealed.

Christians should embrace this struggle in which beauty can be found by unashamedly proclaiming the entire gospel message, not merely skipping to the “prettiness” of accepting Christ as our Savior. For example, “In Bach’s cantata ‘Christ Lay in Death’s Strong Bonds,’ the choir sings about crucifixion and resurrection in several movements. Christ is portrayed as a suffering servant, walking the pathway to Golgotha until, at last, the chorus literally laughs its ‘alleluias’ of triumph over death.” What a shining example of a comprehensive method of framing the gospel! The world benefits greatly from this message only when expressed in its entirety. The “prettiness” of coming to Christ may be enough to garner a decision for Christ, but the beauty of the gospel message is enough to build lifelong disciples of Christ. In “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis writes that observers of beautiful things long “to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. ” Beauty that elicits such a passionate response is beyond mere sentimentality, but finds rest in the mind as well as in the heart. When I visited the Armstrong-Browning Library, my heart and mind were forced to confront my long-suppressed hunger for something greater than myself. For so long, I suppressed that hunger because I knew it was a longing too great for anyone to fill. Little did I know that God, in His infinite wisdom was using the love story between Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to once again connect me with that long hidden desire, so that I might bring it to Him, to fill. Objective beauty exists, and contrary to what the world may think, it can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

1 “Beauty and the Gospel” by Terry Yount, Tabletalk Magazine (July 2010), p. 75
2 The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis

candace@apologetics.com

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