by Sean Luke
Soft sunlight flooding your room at the crack of dawn whispers the fresh promises of a new day. The trees slowly stir and dance for joy as the wind jostles their branches; they clap as the sun rises, awakening the dawn with silent swayings of joy. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth” (Ps. 50:2 ESV). I love mornings.
Gerard Manly Hopkins once wrote that the world “is charged with the grandeur of God.” Indeed. God writes the story of himself into every beautiful thing in creation, for “all things are from him, through him, and unto him” (Rom. 11:36 ESV). Or, in other words, everything finds its goal in God. In question 44 of the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas hashes out exactly what it means for everything to “find its goal in God.” According to Aquinas, God intends to communicate his own perfection—his own beauty—to created things. That is, the world was made to be a mirror of the beauty of God; as God sees the world as it was intended to be, he sees his own beauty, wisdom, power, and love reflected back to him. The world is a liturgy of worship, a school of divinity before our very eyes. God’s mission is to humanize us through his school of self-revelation. In order to understand his humanizing mission, we must understand what it means to be human.
To live a fully and truly human life is to know, enjoy, and treasure this beautiful God in Jesus Christ. “For this is eternal life, that they know you and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:5 ESV). The whole meaning of the universe, in fact, is Christ; Jesus is the radiance of the Father’s glory (Heb. 1:3 ESV), the content of the Father’s joy (Mk. 1:11 ESV), and is the meaning of all creation (Col. 1:15-20 ESV). When God the Father sees the world, he sees the beauty of the Son—his own beautiful radiance in full force. Just as a lover might write a poem about his beloved expressing her worth, so God the Father has created the world to express the Son’s beauty. The Spirit, according to Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards, embodies the love between Father and Son. In the Spirit, Father and Son perfectly dwell. Somehow, mysteriously, the Father and Son embrace one another in the Spirit, who breathes forth the Love that this triune God is into the world. The Holy Spirit gives us “the mind of Christ,” so that we can treasure God in all things.
What does this all have to do with mission? First, mission and outreach is an overflow of adoration. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, delight spontaneously overflows into praise.1 We will not be missional if we are not first steeped in adoration of God. Have you gone outside to pray and adore the wisdom of God? Have you allowed yourself to feel the warmth of his love dance on the back of your neck in the warm sunlight? Have you let yourself wonder at the beauty of his wisdom in a flower, or the orderliness of his mind in the spiral of a pinecone? Have you seen the dying and rising love of Christ as day turns to night, and night turns to day? Spend some time grasping the scope and breadth and glory of Scripture, and with Scripture’s eyes look at the world around you. How is God at work?
Second, with eyes saturated with Scripture, you can use the threads of God’s glory woven all throughout the tapestry of creation in evangelism. There is, for instance, the thread of God’s heart for justice woven into the crisis at the border. The mistreatment of children breaks God’s beating-for-the-least-of-these heart. His wisdom is embodied in lawyers and justice-workers that spend their time fighting for peace. His wise and loving rule and creativity is embodied in the way you care for pets, cultivate gardens, create life-giving technology and programs—in the ways you relate to creation, you reflect God. Every single person does. How can you use the threads of God’s glory to encourage worship of Jesus in your own context? What threads can you see?
Grasping these threads helps you structure a Gospel presentation. Get to know what sorts of things a non-believer finds beautiful. And then tell the Gospel story with a view to showing how God’s beauty fulfills those impulses. For example, a non-believer might have a passion for cultivating the earth; maybe she wants to fight global warming and pollution so that the world’s natural beauty might be preserved. Great! Tell the Gospel story with a view to showing how God’s loving rule in Christ will sweep over the world, renewing all things and bringing life to creation. Maybe she has a passion for fighting racism. Wonderful. Tell the Gospel story with a view to showing how God’s grace in Jesus is reconciling all nations. Above all, seek to cultivate delight in God!
What ways can you portray the beauty of God for others to see? Let us know in the comments!
1C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1958), 93–97.
Image credit: “Green River Gorge” by Katherine Walter Easley (adapted), shared under CC BY-SA 4.0.