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on beauty and goodness in everyday life

March 6, 2011

In his discussion of biblical language for beauty and goodness, William Dyrness says, “Part of the modern problems is that the Hebrews had no special language for art and beauty, precisely because beauty was not something that occupied a separate part of their lives. In one sense it was “nothing special.” Often objects of beauty simply accompanied or adorned ordinary parts of life and therefore would likely be dismissed today as merely “decorative.” Beauty was nothing special because at its best it was meant to be a reflection of the ordered meaning of God’s good creation.” (Visual Faith, p. 70).

The Hebrew words for beauty all had to do with ‘fittingness’, ‘suitability’, ‘holiness’, ‘goodness’, ‘righteousness’, ‘appropriateness’ and in that sense they’d be applicable to how we live in all areas of life. A few of the Hebrew words for beauty have a sense of desire, of a value worth obtaining. The Hebrews affirmed beauty in everyday life because God’s creation is good, yet recognizing the brokenness due to human sinfulness, there’s an eschatological sense in their understanding of beauty: one day God will act to destroy evil and all things will be made beautiful. This should give us hope to live life beautifully, in the face of brokenness, knowing that the one who had no beauty to attract us was broken on the cross to clothe his people in beauty. Or as U2 said so well:

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name….

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

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