We all know something beautiful when we come across it. Although each of us has a unique taste for beauty, there is a surprising consensus across the whole human race when it comes to identifying something as beautiful.
In English speaking Christianity, we are familiar with the word ‘Gospel’, but it is a word that has no independent meaning in our language outside its New Testament context, so it makes little impact on us. The word that St Paul used (on 60 different occasions) was a word that had immediate meaning to his readers - it meant ‘beautiful message’.
During Paul’s 30 year mission, the growth in Jesus’ followers across the Roman empire was enormous. One of the key factors to that exponential growth was the fact that Paul’s message was a beautiful one. Paul had a message that delighted people’s hearts, that eased their guilt, that guided their lives. Almost everywhere Paul travelled, there was an instant response to the simple beauty of Jesus’ message.
In the centuries that have followed, Christianity’s message has not always been beautiful. The church has repeatedly condemned and accused, threatening people with punishment rather than showing them divine love. Christian leaders have been quick to forbid, but slow to forgive.
The message of Jesus was beautiful, and immediately recognisable as being so. We human beings love to be encouraged, affirmed, loved and forgiven; we dislike being criticised, judged, threatened or condemned. Today, we are the messengers of the ‘Gospel’; we are the ambassadors of Jesus. If our message as a church or as individual Christians is not recognisably beautiful, then it is not ‘Gospel’.
Say something beautiful to someone this week.