Add to the Beauty

I'm reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge right now, and, let me tell you, it is doing me a world of good. When I started reading it, his conversational tone was super annoying, but then it got better. If you look at my copy of the book, you see really pretty, clear pages, no markings, until page 40, and then it's like an ink explosion. Eldredge's basic premise is that our going theology concerning the heart pretty much sucks, and that we need to understand the importance of our hearts and what God says about and wants from our hearts if we are going to have any kind of abundant life. He explores various things the Bible says about the heart, so that his thoughts about the heart don't relate solely to Jeremiah 17:9 (which most of my thoughts on the heart have taken as their premise). It's actually pretty life-giving. I've needed it.

But that's kind of beside my point at the moment. What happened on pg. 40 was that Eldredge wrote,
Much to our surprise, according to Jesus, a heart can also be pure, as in, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8). And even noble, as in his story about the sower: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).
 As you probably know if you've had a discussion about the Bible with me, I am a major words person. I trust my Scripture translation (NKJV, represent!) over the others I've read, but I really prefer to be able to find out what the words are in Greek. I like doing the research and discovering shades of meaning. I really like finding out what the synonyms are and trying to figure out why the writer used one particular word among the alternatives he could have used. To that end, I busted out my Reader's Greek New Testament to see what those words were. So you can see it, here's what Luke 8:15 would look like with those synonyms in Greek: "But the seed on kalos soil stands for those with a kalos and agathos heart . . . ." What, I asked, is the difference between kalos and agathos? According to William Barclay's study, New Testament Words,
We may best of all see the meaning of kalos, if we contrast it with agathos which is the common Greek word for good. Agathos is that which is practically and morally good; kalos is that which is not only practically and morally good, but that which is also aesthetically good, which is lovely and pleasing to the eye.
Hort, commenting on James 2.7, says: 'Kalos is what is good as seen, as making a direct impression on those who come in contact with it--not only good in result, which would be agathos.' In the creation story when God looked at the world which he had made, he saw that it was good (Gen. 1.8), and kalos is the word which is used.
When a thing or a person is agathos, it or he is good in the moral and practical sense of the term, and in the result of its or his activity; but kalos adds to the idea of goodness the idea of beauty, of loveliness, of graciousness, of winsomeness. Agathos appeals to the moral sense; but kalos appeals also to the eye (William Barclay, New Testament Words 154).
 In ancient Greek kalos designates the noble, fair, and comely; the beloved and blessed; the wise, fitting, sweet, and honorable. The papyri use it to describe the self-evidently good. The New Testament employs it at least one hundred times (Ibid., 151-155). Barclay continues:
It describes the stones of which the Temple is built (Luke 21.5). It describes the fruit which the fruitful and good tree produces (Matt. 3:10; cp. Luke 3.9; Matt. 7:17-19; 12.33; Luke 6.43). It describes the good ground which is clean and rich and fertile (Matt. 13.8, 23; cp. Mark 4.8, 20 and Luke 8.15). It describes the good seed which is sown into the ground (Matt. 13.24, 27, 37, 38). . . . Salt is said to be kalos (Mark 9.50). . . . The Law is kalos (Rom. 7.16; I Tim. 1.8). The name of Christ is kalos (James 2.7). The word of God is kalos (Heb. 5.14) (155-156).
Kalos describes what Paul wills but cannot do in Romans 7, what we must not grow weary in doing (Gal. 6:9), what we must produce (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14) and what we ought to provoke in other Christians (Heb. 10:24) (156). Barclay notes:
Here is a use of the word kalos which sheds a flood of light on the Christian life. Clearly it is not enough that the Christian life should be good; it must also be attractive. A grim and unlovely goodness is certainly goodness, but it is not Christian goodness; for Christian goodness must have a certain loveliness on it. On Christian good works there must be the bloom of charm. Real Christianity must always attract and never repel. There is such a thing as a hard, austere, unlovely and unloveable goodness, but such a goodness falls far short of the Christian standard. In all his efforts to be good, in all his strivings toward moral holiness, the Christian must never forget the beauty of holiness (156-157).
 He adds, "Peter urges his converts to make their way of life kalos among the Gentiles (I Peter 2.12)" (157).

The beauty applies to every area of Christianity:
Office in the Church must be kalos (I Tim. 3.1; 3.13). Too often office in the Church is characterized by criticism, obstructiveness, self-righteousness and self-importance; it ought to be characterized by the loveliness of service, encouragement, support and love . . . . The Christian is to be a good soldier and he is to fight a good campaign, which indeed Paul was able to claim that he himself had done (I Tim. 1.18; 6.12; II Tim. 2.3; 4.7).
There must be a quality of chivalrous gallantry about the Christian life. The Christian must not serve like a conscript, press-ganged into the service of Christ; he must be the adventurer of Christ. He must make it clear to all by his vital happiness that he finds the service of Christ a thrilling thing, even when it is hard and difficult. The Christian must be the laughing cavalier of Christ (158, bolded emphasis mine).
I would retranslate I Tim. 1:18 as "This is the order I place before you, child Timothy, according to the foregoing prophecy upon you, that you might wage among them the beautiful war;" I Tim. 6:12 as "Fight the beautiful fight of the faith, lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called and you confessed the beautiful confession before many witnesses!" and II Tim. 2:3 as "Suffer together as a beautiful soldier of Christ Jesus." Paul says in II Tim. 4:7, "I have fought the beautiful fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

I love the idea of the beautiful warrior. I think it rings true throughout the Bible. Exodus 15:2-3 says, "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father's God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name." The lady of Proverbs 31 is a "wife of valor," a woman like an army. Tell me she's not a beautiful warrior. Proverbs 12:4 says, "A wife of valor is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones." She's a beautiful warrior who bestows honor and a crown. I imagine a woman warrior who has rescued a crown to set it on the head of the rightful heir. Ruth is a woman of valor (Ruth 3:11), a woman like an army. Psalm 18 (my favorite) has the image of God as the warrior fighting for His person and teaching His person to be a beautiful warrior. David was a beautiful warrior; he fought valiantly, but he left us some of the most stirring poetry ever written. When Christ comes back on His white horse, He will come as the Beautiful Warrior.

I also love the image of the beautiful fight. War and slaughter are ugly, but the Christian fight is the beautiful fight. Getting a little Greek, it is beautiful agony. "Agonize the beautiful agony," Paul says. It is telling that the most horrible anguish in the Bible is expressed in poetry. Beautiful agony. Almost all of Job is poetry. The "suffering Servant" passages in Isaiah are all poetry. The anguish of David's heart? Poetry. When Christ hangs on the cross, He cites . . . poetry.

Life as a Christian may be painful--only a fool would contend otherwise--but it is noble. Peter argues,
For what credit is it, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth," who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed (I Pet. 2:20-24).
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear (I Pet. 3:14-15). 
Christian suffering takes nobility from its supreme example, who "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Such beauty rests there: when we suffer for righteousness' sake, we look a little like Him, and we live in the hope and the promise that sustained Him too.

If all this goodness and beauty weren't enough, Barclay adds a parting shot:
We have studied the meaning and usages of the word kalos in classical Greek and in the NT in some detail; but we have deliberately left to the end the two usages of it in the NT which illustrates its meaning best of all. 
One of the loveliest stories in the NT is the story of the anointing of Jesus' head by the woman in the house of Simon the leper at Bethany. The woman loved Jesus, and this was the only way in which she could show her love. The dull, insensitive, unimaginative spectators criticized her for the reckless extravagance of what she had done. Jesus' answer was: 'She hath wrought a good, kalos work upon me' (Matt. 26:10; cp. Mark 14:6).
That incident is the perfect demonstration of all that kalos means. It was a demonstration of love; it was the act of a love which knew that only the best it had to give was good enough; it was the act of a love which refused to count the cost. It was the act of a love which set beauty far above mere utility; of a love which knew that giving can never be dictated by the cautious prudentialities of common sense. A deed which is kalos is a deed in which there is enshrined the beauty of love's extravagance.
The second usage in the NT which demonstrates the meaning of kalos is that it is the word which is used of Jesus in that title which is for many the most precious title of Jesus--the Good Shepherd (John 10.11, 14).
The shepherd does not look after his sheep with only a cold efficiency. He looks after them with a sacrificial love. When the sheep are in trouble, he does not nicely calculate the risk of helping them; he gives his life for the sheep. He does not give so many hours' service to the sheep per day, and carefully calculate that he must work so many hours a week. All through the day he watches over them, and all through the night he lies across the opening in the sheepfold so that he is literally the door. Here we have the same idea again. The good shepherd is the shepherd whose service is a lovely and heroic thing because it is a service, not rendered for pay, but rendered for love (160-161, bolded emphasis mine).
I don't know about you guys, but this blesses my heart. The Christian life overflows (or should) with reckless love, endless nobility, unstinting valor. We agonize the beautiful agony, live beautifully, follow the Beautiful Shepherd, will one day look smiling into the face of the Beautiful Warrior who has always come to our rescue. May our lives every day add to the beauty.


  • I have had some really wonderful conversations this week, have had an amazing time reconnecting with people here. God has let me meet some new people in some neat ways.
  • I have seen God answer several specific prayers that I prayed for most of last year, which is a huge encouragement on multiple levels.
  • My supervisor is helping me to define my role here as it pertains to the team, to the church, and to the Centre. It looks like I'm going to have more of an intentional musical role where the church is concerned, which is frightening and awesome.

Prayer Requests

  • Please pray for help in follow-up with people I have met. Please pray that the lady who got my phone number on Thursday would call me. Pray for open doors for the gospel, open hearts to receive it, and open windows of heaven to bless it.
  • Please pray for wisdom in goal-setting.
  • Please pray for protection for my heart, mind, and body. I believe God is going to do some neat things this year, and I think I have been under real attack in anticipation of those things. Pray that I would fight the beautiful fight with courage and wouldn't lose heart.
  • Pray for boldness to share the gospel.

Thank you for bearing with this tremendously long post! Thank you for praying for me.

No comments: