Tabitha McDuffee on Our Advocacy Should Reflect God’s Beauty

Tabitha McDuffee is a writer and student living in Southern California. She blogs at TabithaMcDuffee.com and is completing her master’s degree in refugee protection and forced migration studies from the University of London.


Outside a US congressman’s office, Christians holding homemade protest signs and clergy dressed in their robes and collars attend a march to challenge the separation of families seeking asylum at the US–Mexico border. They join in impassioned chants of “Keep the kids, deport the racists!” and “Lock them up!” referring to those who work for the US Border Patrol. In protesting the dehumanizing ugliness of children being separated from their parents they dehumanize others in return, calling for their rights to be taken away and their freedoms restricted.

Inside the offices of a Christian nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to immigrants, volunteers from a local church assist young immigrants with their DACA applications. These young men and women came to the US with their families when they were children and now find themselves undocumented, unable to live, work, or attend college in the US without the threat of deportation. The volunteers chat with the eager immigrants over donuts and coffee as they navigate the complex paperwork that will allow them to legally remain in their communities.

While the Christians in both these scenarios may believe very similar things about immigration, they have chosen to live out their convictions in dramatically different ways. But what makes us immediately recognize them as distinct from one another? I would suggest that the Christians in the second example are reflecting God’s beauty in the way they live out their beliefs about immigration. I believe that while God expects the content of our beliefs to be righteous, he also wants the form of our faith to be beautiful. Today, I’m using immigration as an example of how we can critically assess our beliefs and ask ourselves if they are displaying God’s beauty in the world, but the framework I propose could apply to any number of convictions held by Christians, even beliefs on which we might disagree.

The Beauty of the Lord

Before we can ask if our beliefs are reflecting God’s beauty, we have to understand what God’s beauty is, and why we as Christians should make it our goal to reflect it in our convictions at all. Jonathan King, a professor of theology and the author of The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics, explains that “beauty is inherent to God, and it’s reflected in everything that he does.” The psalmists write songs of praise about God’s beauty. David’s only request in Psalm 27:4 is to “gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” Isaiah says that the reward for the righteous will be to see God in his beauty (33:17). Pastor and author John Piper understands God’s beauty as “the peculiar proportionality and interplay and harmony of all God’s attributes.” In other words, beauty encompasses the perfect way in which God’s attributes work together, even when they seem paradoxical. Attributes like God’s justice and mercy, goodness and truth, holiness and compassion exhibit a symmetry and perfection that sets him apart from us.

Biblically and historically, God’s beauty has also been closely tied to God’s glory. Hundreds of times in Scripture, the biblical authors use the word “glory” to refer to God’s overwhelming worthiness and beauty and to communicate that God is set apart from every other being in the universe. God’s aim from Genesis to Revelation is to make his unique glory and beauty known throughout the entire world. Psalm 96:3 instructs those who follow God to “declare his glory among the nations,” and John makes the foundational claim of Christianity that in Jesus God “became flesh” and revealed his glory to us (John 1:14). King calls God’s beauty the “outward expression of his glory” that is “expressed and perceivable as an aesthetic quality of his glory in his work of creation, redemption, and consummation.” God’s salvific action in the world is not just effective; it is also beautiful.

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century American preacher, wrote extensively about God’s beauty. He believed that when Christians are saved, God opens our eyes to see his beauty in a way we could not before and causes our hearts “to have a relish of the loveliness and sweetness of the supreme excellency of the Divine nature.” King builds on this understanding by suggesting that reflecting God’s beauty in the world is an essential part of what it means for Christians to imitate Jesus and follow his example. When we consider all this together, God’s beauty can be defined as the unique relationship between his attributes by which he accomplishes his work in the world and reveals his glory. But why does it matter that our beliefs and the actions they inspire reflect God’s beauty?

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Source: Christianity Today