Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

beauty and perfection

9/20/13

 

In philosophy the transcendent elements are said to be beauty, truth, and goodness. Their pursuit is seen as the ultimate purpose for life.

 

For the moment I want to focus exclusively on our normal concept of beauty. As human beings we seem driven to view beauty as involving order, symmetry, and what I will call "wholeness". By "wholeness" I mean that all the normal, expected, i.e. traditional, components are present and visible. A beautiful home is clean and neat. A beautiful snowflake is symmetrical. A perfect child is sound of body and mind.

 

Interestingly in the Bible we encounter competing concepts of beauty and perfection. On the one hand, the animals which were to be used as sacrifices under the Law of Moses had to be perfect and without blemish. They had to be whole in the way I described above. Otherwise they were deemed unacceptable, unworthy in some sense. In contradistinction to this idea of perfection and acceptability being measured visually from the outside, we read the account of David's appointment by God to be king. David did not look impressive and acceptable as king. He was diminutive and ragged looking, not at all regal; and yet God picked him. In so doing, He suggested to us all that we lack the ability and therefore the need to judge one another based on externals.

 

As we move forward to the NT accounts we see Jesus, who is described prophetically as lacking the normally aspects of beauty and perfection. Isaiah 53 foretold of a Messiah who would totally lack comeliness, strength, and honor. In no way was he to be recognized and emulated by those who held the standard measure of beauty and perfection.

 

Additionally, when Jesus walked the earth during his ministry, he did not readily conform to the behavioral standards of the Jewish religious teachers. He acted as a misfit, a renegade, a heretic. His non-conformity was unacceptable to those who exercised authority in the Jewish society of his day. As is so often the case, the human response to this perceived unacceptability was the idea of elimination; we must get rid of what is not beautiful and perfect in our estimation.

 

A religious understanding which enjoins that we judge other people based on our observations of their behavior will certainly never allow us to relinquish the prevailing concept of externally measured beauty and perfection. Having said that, I must admit that I struggle like most others with the powerful tendency to avoid and ignore what I perceive as lacking beauty and perfection. At the same time I admit to a pervading sense of guilt in not being able to embrace those who lack beauty and perfection in the normal sense. It is, perhaps, a common emotional conundrum.

 

Intriguingly, when we observe the creation we seem to be able to recognize beauty and perfection even when it lacks our normal sense thereof. The heavens exhibit both order and randomness in mindboggling abundance, and we generally see awesome beauty in both. In nature we marvel at the scenery, which is neither symmetric nor orderly. The forest floor is littered with debris, but few feel like it needs to be swept out. Nature is again an admixture of order and chaos, both of which seem equally inspirational.

 

For some reason, in viewing our fellowmen, we are incapable of appreciating disorder and differences. We have a compulsion to demand conformity to our own sense of externally measured beauty and perfection. Feeling guilty about this compulsion does little good in my experience.

 

I don't have a ready personal answer to this mental, emotional dilemma, but I feel confident that the tendency to dismiss and eliminate that which is imperfect in our own estimation is not the solution. That was the thinking that put Jesus on the cross, and I still hope to evolve  beyond that approach to seeking beauty and perfection. The one who "had no beauty that we should desire him" led the way.

 

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