Beautiful Things

Ephesians 1:7-10

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

This theme is similar to much of what I have covered in other posts, but I want to specifically dig into the idea of unity and how we can better understand what is means that God wants to unite all things.

Unity

It is the revealed mystery of God’s will, His purpose, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. This is a pretty significant idea in understanding what God is doing and in better understanding who God is. God is about the unity and reconciliation of all things.

When I was in college, my small group leader consistently asked us a question that is still one of the first questions that I try to answer when attempting to understand a passage of Scripture. He would ask, “what does this say about the character and nature of God?” Whenever we read statements made by or about actions ordained by God in the Bible, we know that they are communicating something about who He is. If God’s purpose is to unite all things in Him, then it stands to reason that God is not about causing division. God is about relationship. He’s about pulling the broken in closer to himself and about repairing divisions that sin has caused in our relationship with Him.

To better grasp the idea of what this means, let’s look at the Japanese art of Kintsugi. This tradition takes broken pottery and repairs it into a new work of art by piecing the broken pieces and using a gold, silver, or platinum lacquer to put it back together. The results are stunning. The new piece has a spider web of gold fingers reaching across the ceramic. Some of the best pieces actually look like they were intentionally designed to be that way. Kintsugi stands in contrast to most western traditions, which tend to repair something like this by making it as close as they can to what the original looked like. Kintsugi, on the other hand, uses the broken places of the pottery to create something that is unique and beautiful in its own right. Kintsugi forces you to see beauty in the broken parts of the object. In some ways, this is how I understand what God does with our broken places.

The broken places of our lives are chasms that often keep us from God, but the work that God is doing is much like the work of Kintsugi. He is uniting the broken pieces within us to make something new. He’s using the broken body of Christ on the cross to make us new creations in His kingdom. One of the most amazing parts to this is not just that he is repairing the fractures in both you and me, but in all who believe. He is reconciling the world to Himself through the global church with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What does this say about the character and nature of God? It says that He has a plan and a purpose. It says that He is about reconciliation and about relationships. It says that He is generous with His grace and His forgiveness. God is not about hiding the flaws in our characters, but about reconciling us and healing us so that we are seen by Him as righteous. It’s a system where the brokenness of the body of Christ brings us into relationship with Him. It’s a system of redemption and of love. God is about uniting rather than dividing.

Prayer and Reflection

Think about Kintsugi and what it means that the brokenness is repaired for use and beauty. Where might you be broken? Ask God to repair that brokenness and be reminded that He will view it as something new and beautiful.

I’m reminded of the song from a few years ago, Beautiful Things, by Gungor. Give it a listen.

Within You

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

As we’ve already established, to some degree, Lent is a time for us to come to terms with the human condition. The focus is often on the brokenness in each of us as well as the brokenness around us. As I’ve mentioned before, we embrace our brokenness and look for truth in the midst of it. We “endure suffering” as 2 Timothy 4:5 states. Yes, Lent is a time to crack open the shells of our lives and peer into the inner workings of who we are, but besides brokenness, what might you also see?

Is it not true that we were created in the image of God and given a task to tame the wildness of creation in such a way that promotes flourishing, to use our creativity for His glory (Genesis 1:26-31)? We may be broken, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t valuable. We may not have earned God’s grace, but that doesn’t negate our value. It doesn’t mean that God didn’t create us for a purpose or that we weren’t made with intention.

Verse 8 is clear that salvation doesn’t come from anything that we’ve done. It’s a gift from God. His grace is a gift, but just because we didn’t do anything to receive the gift doesn’t mean there isn’t something for us to do. We were created for good works. We were created to seek the flourishing of other humans, to “be fruitful and multiple.” We often think of this phrase as a commandment to reproduce, but what if it’s broader than that?  What if we’re called from the very beginning to participate in a world that promotes health and care and love for everyone?

The human condition is broken, but at the same time in our brokenness, in our death, we were loved and saved so that we could live into the good works that God planned for us from the beginning. We seek healing. We seek reconciliation. We seek justice. We seek love. We seek the welfare of the city. These things may not be perfected until He returns, but we can catch a glimpse of what His glory is like and help others do the same.

I’ve mentioned that I want to make Lent about introspection. I want us to shed the weight of our idols and see what’s left. What’s left might be broken, but it’s also the workmanship of God. He took care in creating each of us, so maybe the cracks are there on purpose. What might we see when we peer into the inner workings of who we are?  Maybe when we hesitantly peek into those broken spots, we’ll be surprised by what we find. Maybe we’ll find that we were fearfully and wonderfully made. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find the kingdom of God.

Prayer and Reflection

Pray for guidance in better understanding how God can use you for the flourishing of those around you. Pray that you will find hope, love, and value in the brokenness of your life.