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Arts, Humanity and Christianity

In Matthew 26, there is a surprising passage where a woman named Mary broke an alabaster jar and poured perfume on Jesus’ feet as a way to express her humility and devotion.  Jesus said it was beautiful, because this expression of her love for God was extravagant, elegant and shared no concern for what others may think of her dedication to Jesus.  It was simply an artistic expression which could not have been stated any other way. Mere words were insufficient, a gentle kiss on the cheek would seem cheap, and silence would have been insulting.  She was forgiven much and her response could not be authentic if it did not match the greatness of that forgiveness.

Sometimes words fail to say what we are dying to express.  Sometimes being practical is absurdly unbiblical.  This is the error much of the Church has fallen into: We think Christ merely wants us to play nice, be thrifty, and above all be practical.  The truth is we ought to be extravagant. We are called to express our joy of life and our love for our savior in a way that authentically reflects the grace He has bestowed upon us.  If He would kill the fatted calf, give us a beautiful robe, and lavish feast, where do we come up with the idea we are supposed to be cheap, boring, and merely practical?

There is no society so poor that it does not have art, and there is no society so obsessed with the basic essentials of human life that they do not find time to create unique artifacts and drawings.  This concept was discussed by Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) who recently spoke at a private Salon which we attended.  As Dana spoke, he shared that art is a human universal.we are made in the Image of God who is the ‘Creator’, it would be ridiculous to think part of our nature is not also to be ‘creative’.  This is how we explore meaning and significance.  We write stories and songs, put brush to canvas, and edit scenes into a film in order to understand and give depth to our lives.  This is how we explore the glory of our humanity and how we remember the magnificence of how we are made.  The Christian has unique role for speaking in a fresh way to our culture. We know our Creator.  We know of His love, and we see our creativity as a gift from Him.  Therefore, we have the most compelling reason for creating, commissioning and buying great art. It is a celebration of being made in His image.

Art is an essential part of being fully human.  It is something that awakens us from the daily grind and reminds us there is more to life than checks, bills, death and taxes.  We were made to communicate and express truths about life and our relationship to the transcendent and more specifically to God.

Dana went on to talk about how art is necessary for survival.  Whether it is a Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag or the spirituals of African Americans – when life deadens our senses, art reminds us we were created to have a purpose and meaning.  It is part of the Image of God within us that cries out to God for justice, mercy and to be reconciled to the God who created us.

To be fully ‘Christ-like’ is to refuse to give in to pragmatism and utilitarian views of life.  As Christians we’re called to create great art, and live lives which bring God’s beauty and glory to the world.

Copyright © 2008 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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