In a recent revival meeting, the pastor and I were reminiscing about some of the people we had known from years gone by. One name was mentioned—a beautiful example of Christian holiness, so gentle and winsome. My pastor friend went on to say, “I miss that sweetness that has made holiness people truly beautiful people.”
My friend’s comments were not just sentimental reflections on the loss of a few “old timers,” whose personality just happened to lend itself toward gentleness. Nor was it a jab at today’s holiness constituents. Rather, I believe it was a genuine longing for God’s people to array themselves in the beauty of true holy living — a trait that has indeed been historically true of holiness people.
God is interested in beauty. A casual glance at His creation gives overwhelming testimony to that fact. Take a drive over the Beartooth Highway in the Great Rockies. Spend a day touring New England’s brilliant autumn countryside. Watch the sunrise on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon. Take an unhurried look at a bougainvillea bloom blowing in a warm southern breeze or a shy water lily in a beaver pond in upstate New York. Spend an afternoon peering through the pristine waters of the Caribbean at the breathtaking display of coral reef, while splendidly colored fish dart about. For that matter, just look out your window at the budding narcissus and the chirping cardinal. God has spared nothing in making a beautiful world!
If you are still not convinced, look into the Scripture at the two building projects God has undertaken. Read about the intricate tapestry of the tabernacle and the ornate designs God planned there. Then, turn to the closing book of the Bible and read the breathtaking description of Heaven. The overwhelming beauty of the eternal city of God impoverishes the human language to describe it.
Doesn’t it stand to reason that if God has so clearly testified to His interest in beauty that He would also want beautiful people? I believe at the very heart of redemption is the removal of the ugliness of sin and the restoration of the beauty of holiness. As a matter of fact, Peter and Timothy both take considerable portions of a chapter to tell us that a life adorned with the ornaments of “good works” and “a meek and quiet spirit” are in the “sight of God of great price.” This is a beauty that flows out of a regenerated and sanctified heart. It is a beauty that is attractive and alluring. On the contrary, any attempt to fabricate beauty through worldly embellishments becomes a false beauty, just as any attempt at holy living that is negative, self-conscious, weird, or denunciatory is like lilies that have begun to rot – repulsive and ill-smelling.
Can the qualities of Christian beauty be defined? I believe they can, and I also believe that they are quite obvious. For instance, holy people are beautiful people because they are real people. Pretense and sham are always beauty spoilers by anyone’s yardstick. People who are authentic, genuine, and truthful (all traits of true holiness) can always be described as beautiful people. Another element of beauty is richness. Holy people are beautiful people because they are rich people. No, not in the sense of dollars, but in the sense of depth and fullness. Paul Rees said it like this, “A fussy straining after piety is not beautiful; it is pathetic. True holiness, however, is an overflow of the indwelling Christ. It is not something that has to be strenuously pumped up. It is artesian. It is the natural overflow of inner goodness.”
Holy people are beautiful people because they are balanced people. Jesus denounced the Pharisees because of their ugly imbalance. He described them as people who paid the most minute attention to the least of issues, yet neglected the most obvious and weighty responsibilities of true spiritual living. The holy man has balance and proportion. He has the ability to disagree without becoming disagreeable. He knows how to be separated without being eccentric. He knows how to be sober without becoming morbid. He knows how to be firm without becoming harsh.
God is actively engaged in making His saints beautiful people. It begins in the decisive moments of conversion and cleansing, and continues in the daily discipline of being conformed to His image. It is my constant prayer that the Lord will make my life appealing and alluring so that I may truly worship Him “in the beauty of holiness.”