As we look around our world, we notice things that are beautiful. These things could be as simple as a smile, or as complex as the Universe we inhabit. Beauty catches our attention, but the lack of beauty also catches our attention. We look at the world and we see beauty, but we also look at the world and see things that are ugly. We are reminded each day that we live in a world created by God, but we are also reminded that we live in a fallen world that has been drastically changed by the sin introduced into it by humankind.
We see this loss of beauty each time we watch the news. We have seen it the last few weeks as protests have broken out across our nation. No matter which side you find yourself on, both sides agree that something is wrong with the world. What is it? What is wrong? Why is this world often ugly when in the beginning there was nothing but beauty? Surprisingly, it took a professional football player to answer this question for us. As many people were pondering the events of the last several weeks, Benjamin Watson, a player for the New Orleans Saints, wrote a Facebook post that was shared by many many people. It was shared by people on the right and the left. It was shared by black people and white people. Why did his post resonate with so many? Because he was one of the few that actually spoke about the root of the problem. He wrote,
“I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”
We live in a world that has been infected by sin. This is what robs the world of its beauty, and until we fix the sin problem, the world will lack the full beauty it once enjoyed prior to the fall. Sin is serious because it steals joy and beauty from us. Sin is the cause of injustice. It is responsible for all the hatred and violence we see. Sin corrupted the paradise that Adam and Eve once enjoyed.
We do not have to look to national news to see and understand this. We don’t have to look any further than our own lives to see that sin has corrupted what was once beautiful. We are robbed of beauty each time a family member gets cancer and has to enter the hospital. We are not representatives of beauty when we get angry and respond in an unkind way. Beauty and innocence is lost when a child is harmed or treated unfairly. The beauty of friendship is disrupted when there is a failure to respect or listen to someone else. Marriage is a beautiful thing, but we live in a world where marriage is constantly threatened. Sin affects us personally. It affects our family and loved ones. If we are honest, then we will admit that it affects us as well. We do not always act as we should. Sometimes we sin and we are responsible for the loss of beauty we see in the world.
We catch glimpses of beauty, but it is obvious that we live in a broken world. The good news is that God is not through with us, nor is he through with his creation. We have an opportunity to regain the beauty that has been lost. In Isaiah 61:3 God promises to replace the ugliness of ashes and ruins with something beautiful. Throughout Isaiah 61:1-4 the prophet describes how God is going to take these bad things in the world and do something magnificent. This is the very passage that Jesus quotes when he begins his ministry in Luke 4:16-21. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon informs us that God makes everything beautiful in its own time.
God’s plan is a plan of redemption. It is a plan to redeem that which is lost. It is a plan to take what has been corrupted by sin and make it beautiful again. In a wonderful song by Over the Rhine they sing,
‘Cause I’ve committed every sin
And each one leaves a different scar
It’s just the world I’m livin’ in
And I could use a guiding star
Sin leaves us with scars. The image that we were created in has been bruised and blistered. It is no longer the pristine image God gave us when we were conceived. Each sin leaves a different mark. Some marks we cannot erase. Some marks only God can erase.
When we become a Christian our sins are forgiven. We are washed in the blood of the lamb. We are justified in the eyes of the Lord, but it does not mean all the scars have been removed. Even after we have been forgiven, we still feel the effects of sin. God may have forgiven all the times we lashed out in anger, but that anger still lives inside us. God’s plan is not just to forgive, it is to redeem. Forgiveness is part of the plan, but it is not THE plan. It is the beginning, not the end. Becoming a Christian sets us on a journey of transformation. God reveals the goal at the end of Revelation.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” (Rev. 21:1-5)
God’s goal is to make all things new. It is to make everything beautiful in its own time, but what does a beautiful life look like? We are so used to seeing scarred lives that we might not know. What is God shaping and molding us to be? Paul gives us the answer in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The bruised and blistered image that we have within us is being transformed into the image of the Lord from one degree of glory to another. The transformation is for us to look more like Jesus. When we become a Christian, we make a commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. With God’s help, we are being shaped into something beautiful. As Billy Joe Shaver once sang, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond some day.”
When we give ourselves to God, he makes a commitment to make something beautiful with our lives. He promises to step in and turn something broken and bruised into something magnificent. The world looks at us and sees an old chunk of coal, but God looks at us and sees a diamond.
God saves us. He forgives us, and he transforms us, but this is not all. He also invites us to be a part of what he is doing. As followers of God, we are to partner with him in transforming this world into something beautiful. When we encounter lives, situations, communities, etc. that have been marred by sin, we are to look for opportunities to redeem and make something beautiful. We are to share God with others. We are to seek to mend brokenness whenever we see it. If we come face to face with the ugliness of hunger, then we can do something beautiful by offering a warm meal. If we encounter life-sucking addiction, then we can seek to help give that person their life back by being a positive presence in their life and helping connect them with professionals. We can work to battle poverty, divorce, hatred, abuse, and many other forms of ugliness in our world by being a source of beauty and by seeking to spread beauty everywhere we go.
We live in a world full of sin. Everyone knows this, but we, as Christians, know something others don’t. God is at work. He is working to make something beautiful out of what has been marred by sin, and he has invited us to be a part of this work, so what are you going to do about it? Are you going to go on living your life as if nothing has changed, or are you going to live into this new reality that we read about in Scripture? Are you going to look around and dwell on the ugliness, or are you going to see the potential for transformation and beauty? God is seeking to make things beautiful and he wants us to join him.
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