Psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson recently addressed a group of about 75 parents at a Christian independent school in North Carolina. During his talk, he celebrated the school’s mission to foster beauty and goodness. Dr. Thompson then reminded his rapt audience that God wants their children to become icons of beauty, not to make straight As.

Icons of beauty? One could argue that it is only possible to propose such a high ideal from a place of privilege. But let’s think about this for a moment. We know how easy it is to use filters to enhance our online images and elective surgeries to perfect our physical bodies. So what is beauty anyway? How do we as leaders pursue what God calls beautiful?

On Good Friday, we saw humanity’s ugliness. Jesus died a horrific and humiliating death on a cross. Soldiers cast lots for his clothes. They mocked him and spit on him. The religious elite taunted him for claiming to be the Son of God. Three days later, Jesus stood outside an empty tomb while Mary Magdalene looked upon the most startling sight she had ever seen: Jesus was not dead after all. She was captivated by God’s beauty.

One gift the church can offer the world is true beauty. What might it look like if we take seriously the call to reflect God’s beauty in the world? What might we do differently to be a church that is passionate about the beauty of God’s generosity? How might an icon of beauty show up for their neighbors, friends and people who know what it feels like to be excluded? Maybe Dr. Thompson is on to something.


Resources

Beauty in the midst of chaos and carnage

After a deadly firing-range accident, a Navy chaplain learns that beauty exists even in the wake of tragedy. Search for it and point it out to others, he says, for it is a glimpse of the resurrection.

By Russ Ferguson

The peculiar beauty of the imperfect

A shell-collecting trip teaches the Rev. Mark Ralls to appreciate the traditional Japanese concept of beauty called wabi sabi — and to apply it to Christian life.

By Mark Ralls

Beauty as a mark of excellence

Beauty is a mark of excellent ministry.

By L. Gregory Jones

Mary Magdalene’s perspective: Reflecting resurrection

The spiritual practice of “divine seeing” invites us to look deeply and to question. How might you view the world differently from a place of greater focus and openness to new perspectives?

By Gretchen E. Ziegenhals

Proclaiming the liberation narrative of God through church art

A Chicago church has installed a trio of stained-glass windows to help its members reclaim their past, honor their present and look ahead to their future.

By Celeste Kennel-Shank


Before you go…

When David thought about the one thing he most wanted, he said that he wanted to gaze on the “beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4). In Romans 10:15, the apostle Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7).

Longing for beauty seems to be built into who we are as creatures. This may be what I love most about the high holy seasons of the Christian year. At Christmas and Easter, the church does everything possible to make worship, music and life more beautiful.

I don’t see anything wrong in a kid trying to make straight As. But as I think about my children, I certainly hope that they discover more of what it means to reflect God’s beauty in the world. I hope we all do.

Feel free to contact me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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