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Power of Beauty

A few months ago I spoke at the headquarters for the largest non-profit in the world, World Vision International. As I spoke in their chapel, I challenged them to consider the role that beauty and art play when God transforms entire cultures. I showed them the often overlooked passages of scripture which make this clear and was thrilled by their response. Afterward I spoke to a few key people about how this applied specifically to World Vision and challenged them to incorporate these principles into all of their facilities: offices and supply warehouses around the world. I challenged their leadership that ugly warehouses may be utilitarian, but fail to minister to the whole person. Only two days passed before they asked me to meet with their top tier leaders who oversee their real estate both in the U.S., and around the world. In that meeting they shared how they are totally redesigning their facilities, and as a response to my talk they realized they needed to incorporate beauty into their spaces around the world, and they need to bring AEM in to advise them on how to create beautiful spaces that reflect God’s beauty and glory. And because of my talk, they wanted to incorporate art into all their spaces so the children they minister to see God’s glory through beautiful spaces and beautiful artwork. Their first project is their corporate headquarters, and they plan for this building to be the model for their offices around the world. In the meeting, they expressed they wanted me to be a part of this process and to aid in procuring significant artwork for their facilities.

But why does this matter? Why is this significant? Because beauty has been largely forgotten in our culture, but is critical in God’s economy. It is beauty that reminds us of our dignity. It is beauty that reflects we are made in God’s image. It is beauty that draws us to pursue a life of dignity and it is beauty that shows us the preciousness of our humanity. A beautiful house expresses the significance and care which has been taken to keep it so lovely. An elegant watch, a beautifully designed car, or an exquisite gourmet meal remind us of the time and care put into such considerations. In response, we are more careful with a new car, a beautiful home, or an elegant piece of jewelry. We don’t do this just because of the monetary value, but also because beauty itself beckons us to preserve it. Beauty is dignifying not just for the rich but more importantly for the poor and the economically trapped. A great practical example of this is when Giuliani sought to clean up New York City, he subscribed to the “Broken Windows” theory. Simply stated, the ugly chaos of broken windows and graffiti actually breeds crime. Ugliness naturally increases disrespect for property, the devaluation of human life, and corruption. The loss of justice and truth leads to the loss of beauty. A significant part of the answer for cleaning up New York City was actually in paying attention to the little details that marred the beauty of that great city. The more beautifully maintained the city was, the more you empowered local people to maintain that beauty through a sense of pride and ownership of their environment. When your environment is clean and beautiful, you have a God given desire to protect that beauty. It is really no different than the goal of gated communities; pay attention to the details, maintain standards of beauty and order, and safety and property value will follow in large measure.

It ought not to surprise us that God starts and ends the Bible with Beauty. He begins with a beautiful garden, ends with a beautiful city, and in the middle of the wisdom literature we find these peculiar words, “He {God} makes all things beautiful”. This seems a bit odd to our 21st century minds. Shouldn’t the verse say He makes all things to work properly, or efficiently, or effectively?  No. He makes ALL things beautiful. Sadly we’ve forgotten the power and purpose of beauty. In the bible, beauty is almost always tied to the holiness of God, to the peace of His Shalom, and to the beauty of a life like yours and mine being rebuilt and restored into something better than we ever thought. God offers to us a beautiful love, beautiful grace, and beautiful transformation of individuals, cities, and creation. If we think about it, the ‘Broken Windows” theory actually is a picture of the Gospel. The broken windows in the neighborhood are a symbol of the broken lives that pass by, and without any real hope of redemption it will lead to chaos, confusion, and corruption. The reality is Christ didn’t only come to give us a warm winter coat or a loaf of bread, as meaningful as that is. Christ came to do more than just meet our physical needs, He meets all of our needs. He came to make all things beautiful –  even the broken pieces of our hearts, the marred paintings of our past, and the environment in which we live, love, and work.

Copyright © 2012 Joel and Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved.  Used with permission.

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