Thursday, April 24, 2008

True Beauty

An edited version of my Morning Thought, for BBC Radio Wiltshire
I know that the skies are grey and overcast this morning, but nothing can detract from the beauty of spring time. On the estate where I live I can see nature springing back to life after the deadness of winter. The old trees are green with leaves once again. Cherry blossom adorns the streets. If instead of talking to you now, I was walking around a Wiltshire beauty spot like Stourhead Gardens, then the sight would be even more impressive. Right now, I can imagine the glimmering lake and the trees and flowers in all their glory. What a wonderful world we live in!

But there is nothing necessary about the beauty of the world. Things sometimes function very efficiently without being especially beautiful. The street light outside my house isn't great to look at compared with a lovely old oak tree, but it illuminates our street pretty effectively at night. The beauty that we encounter every day is a sign of the Creator's loving generosity. He does not want us simply to exist in the most efficient way possible, he made us to live. He created us with the capacity to enjoy the world that he made for his glory and our pleasure. "But" you might say, "there is also much ugliness in the world." Yes, that is true. Rainforests are devastated, rivers and seas polluted. Some people have to live in soulless, graffiti strewn "concrete jungles" rather than pretty Wiltshire towns villages. Not to mention the moral ugliness that often confronts us - the ugliness of greed, hatred and selfishness. That reminds me of the old expression, "as ugly as sin". Sin, rebellion against the God of beauty has brought ugliness into our world.

So, how can we recapture true beauty? Not by conforming to the idealised images of physical perfection that we find in the fashion magazines. We can't all be supermodels. Even if we could, through the marvels of plastic surgery, that would not make us truly beautiful people. As the saying goes, that kind of beauty is only "skin deep". True beauty comes from knowing the God of beauty. If you want an example of a beautiful life, don't look at the latest Hollywood heartthrob. Consider Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I don't mean look at a picture of him, because we don't really know what he looked like. But think about the life he lived. Jesus shows us the beauty of love, grace and truth. In an act of unimaginable beauty, he laid down his life for his friends, dying on the Cross for us. Jesus embraced the ugliness of our sin so that by trusting in him, we might be forgiven and made whole. God raised Jesus from the dead. His body that was flogged, crucified and disfigured was gloriously transformed. In Jesus, true beauty is restored. Those who believe in him will be made like him. "May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (Psalm 90:17).

You can listen again here, about 45 minutes into the show.

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