The Christian worldview provides me with a framework to understand and love beauty.
There is much beauty in the world. There is sadness and pain and ugliness, but there is no doubt that even in the midst of the most pronounced ugliness and suffering, beauty can be found. It can drive away the ugliness and plant new seeds of creation in the wake of its departure.
The Bible says that the source of all that beauty is the beautiful creator behind the creation. God makes the world overflow with grace and the world becomes beautiful because that is what he is. The beauty we see in the world is not an accident. It is not a chance alignment of particles. It is not a senseless preference. It pours like a fountain at all times from the maker of the world.
If that is true then:
1. It changes the way we interact with the beauty we see in the world
2. It changes the way we interact with the beauty we see in people
If God has lavished his beauty on the world then there is nothing that does not retain traces of that beauty. Even the most ugly things in this world are simply “borrowing” from the good creation that God has made.
That means that as people shaped by the gospel we are not free to divide things into “sacred and beautiful” and “secular and ugly” categories, but we are now able to go wherever we must go and find and love the beauty that is there – and it is there. That means every inch of life. Christians must find and love the beauty in movies, in music, in literature, in animals, in plants, poetry, and the list goes on.
Think of the interaction between the beauty of God and the things of the world as the relationship between light and stained glass windows. A stained glass window separates light into a dazzling display of color. The beauty was always there, but you would not have been able to experience it in the same way if not for the tint in the glass. So it is with the things of the world and the beauty of God. You stand in that splash of color and are drawn to the light beyond the window. The beauty of the window does not diminish or rival with the beauty of the light, it glorifies it, so it is with the world.
Humanity is made in the image of God. That image cannot be erased. It is indelibly stamped into us. It is there even in the most wicked action of the most wicked person – it is still part of that person’s identity. Sometimes religion points to our fallenness as the fundamental part of our identity as humans, as if we were fallen before we were anything. But that is not the way it is. In order to be fallen you have to fall from something. When God made humanity it was very good, and that making has not been undone. Evil does not eradicate the original goodness of the creation; it just twists it, and the story of the gospel is the story of creation being untwisted – restored to what it was made to be.
So that is the fundamental identity of every human you have ever come in contact with. They are bearers of the image of God. C. S. Lewis puts it this way in The Weight of Glory, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… Next to the blesses sacrament itself your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” That means there is beauty in the people in whom beauty is hardest to see, and that beauty can never be extinguished. Even the person whom you most enjoy to hate shares with you a common heritage, and that common heritage is a wellspring of goodness and loveliness in their life every day, even when it is hard to see and even if the person himself is not conscious of it. The Christian worldview gives resources to interact with one another based on that deep truth, not the surface ugliness. It lets us act in hope that all things, people especially, will one day find their fulfillment and restoration in returning to what they have always been even if that has become twisted from years of living in a fallen world with fallen hearts that do not yet reflect the beauty of their making as they were made to.