Your beauty should not come from outward adornment . . . Instead, your beauty should come from within – the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Some of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin’s paintings now hang in the Louve in Paris. His still life’s of common objects around the house are so stunning that Marcel Proust observed, “Until I saw Chardin’s paintings I never realized how much beauty lay around in my parents’ house, in the half-cleared table, in the corner of the tablecloth left awry, in the knife beside the empty oyster-shell.”
A talented artist helps us to see things better. A great artist helps us see beauty. Our lives are enriched as we learn to see the beauty of things around us.
Peter talks about the beauty of godliness. He says our real beauty should not come from lipstick or botox. (Okay, he doesn’t exactly say that, but let’s allow a little room for creative paraphrasing.) Peter wants us to recognize the deeper beauty of a gentle spirit.
Have you noticed how some people’s expression of religion is so ugly? You don’t enjoy being around them. They’re arrogant and obnoxious.
Artificial godliness is unattractive.
The Pharisees were consumed with a false piety. You did not walk away refreshed by their influence. Jesus accused them of “tying heavy loads and putting them on people’s shoulders.”
Isn’t it interesting that those who practiced this cosmetic holiness deeply resented Jesus – while everyone else was drawn to him like a magnet?
What do you want your life to look like? Are people attracted to you because they find grace and truth? Does your life convey the beauty of the Lord? Let’s be honest: none of us can “get it right” for very long at a time, but we do need to know what we want our life to look like. Like a great artist, we want our life to help others get a glimpse of the beauty of who the Lord is.
Truly great art not only helps us see, it also inspires us to create. Madeleine L’Engle visited an art museum in New York. She said the paintings did not make her feel insignificant; they made her want to rush home and paint. “When I hear a superb pianist,” she says in her book, A Circle of Quiet, “I can’t wait to get to my own piano.” A great novel makes her want to write. She says it’s not about arrogance, but that great art inspires us to create. “It is beauty crying out for more beauty.”
Paul once urged the same thing. He said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” He wanted his life to be beautiful. Christ-like. He wanted younger Christians to see what Christ was creating in him and be inspired to live the same way.
We may not be there yet, but we can know we’re headed in the right direction when we imagine what Jesus would have us look like. What you will see is a work of beauty.
(text copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre, still life art "Tribute to Noriko" copyright by Dana Zier)