Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Beauty - Genesis 1:6-10

Photo: marionfaria on flickr
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day. And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:6-10 NIV84

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃ וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֨יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שֵׁנִֽי׃ פ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם֙ אֶל־מָק֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃ 

On the second day of creation, God created the sky, and in the first half of the third day He formed the land and seas.

Who is not amazed by the beauty of a fiery sunset on the beach where the ocean, land and sky all meet? Who is not awed and inspired by stunning views of snow-capped peaks, sun-kissed valleys, and even sand-blown desert landscapes?

The majestic beauty of creation captures our attention, awakens our emotions, and sparks the centers of enjoyment in our brain. Our eyes love to take it all in, and our hearts long for more. This inner drive is why a hotel room with a view is more expensive than one without a view - people value beauty.

Beauty is not an end in itself, however. Beauty always reflects its creator. Beautiful art, whether it be music, painting, sculpture, or other art form, always causes us to appreciate the skill of the artist. The same is meant to happen in nature: the beauty of nature is meant to trigger in us a deep sense of appreciation for its Artist - for God. Even more so, if we look objectively at our innate ability to appreciate and enjoy beauty, the recognition of this capacity itself should awaken in us a gratitude and admiration for the One who built it into our design.

Simply put, beauty awakens a sense of worship within us, and the fitting recipient of that worship is God.

Sadly, many people do not give God appreciation and gratitude for the beauty of His creation. Even worse, there are those who twist and misuse our God-given desire for beauty. Pornography is an abuse of our God-given capacity to enjoy beauty.

In the normal routine of our daily lives, many of us are starved for beauty. We don’t watch enough sunsets. We don’t see enough mountains. We don’t take time to lay on our backs and look at the clouds in the sky. Often, the most “beautiful” things we see on any given day, come to us through the glowing pixels of our screens. And even then, it’s a millisecond glimpse of a sunset someone else saw, just another image in the mindless endless scroll. This will never satisfy our innate desire for beauty.

Pornography appeals to our unmet needs for beauty, and offers us a cheap and easy “quick fix.” God designed the naked human form to be an incredible source of visual pleasure. However, God designed this enjoyment to take place within a two-way, loving relationship between one man and one woman. This two-way relationship is completely lacking in pornography, and what is meant to be a mutual enjoyment is twisted into a cheap, selfish imitation.

Pornography shapes our minds’ understanding of beauty in several unhealthy ways:
  • First, porn subversively twists our concept of beauty into something that cannot be attained in real life, replacing God’s ideal of beauty with a false image that can only be found in pornography. Then, we become trapped, because the only way to see more of that false image is by viewing more pornography.
  • Second, porn subtly convinces us that we should be allowed to visually enjoy all bodies, not just the body of our marriage partner. Our perception of all those around us becomes degraded, and we view people as objects meant to serve our needs. But, real people around us do not agree to this objectification, and so the only way our toxic entitlement can be fulfilled is by consuming more pornography.
  • Third, porn degrades the inner purpose of our desire for beauty. Beauty should increase our appreciation for the Artist who made it, and should result in worship of God. Instead, porn teaches us to place our own selfish needs above all else, and we begin to worship our desires themselves, rather than the One who created those desires.
In these ways and more, pornography does violence to our God-given appreciation of beauty.

Most visual beauty on earth is intended for all people to enjoy, from sunsets to mountain peaks. But some beauty is only meant to be enjoyed within certain contexts, and is only a true source of joy within those contexts. Part of  healthy marriage intimacy is the mutual visual enjoyment of each other’s bodies, shared exclusively with each other, and enjoyed by no one else.

God has created us with a deep inner capacity for enjoyment of visual beauty. This appreciation of beauty is meant to lead us to Him. Am I willing to accept His purposes for beauty, and accept the boundaries He has set for my visual enjoyment? Am I willing to denounce the lies of pornography, and only fulfill my need for beauty in healthy ways?
God loves beautiful things, and He created us with a high capacity for the appreciation and enjoyment of beauty. Our God-given need for beauty is best satisfied within His guidelines.

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