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Beauty and ugliness

An encounter with a caricaturist provides an opportunity to proclaim the gospel message in a unique way.

Caricatures can distort a single feature of a beautiful person resulting in a picture that is, well, downright ugly. But sometimes a caricature can provide an opportunity for a spiritual conversation about beauty and ugliness. That is what happened when my wife, Margaret, and I visited San Antonio, Texas, last year.

While we were there, we had our caricature drawn by an artist on the Riverwalk. It was a fun experience that we had never tried before. The artist sketched Margaret first. As she posed, she and the artist struck up a conversation. It started with typical small talk. The artist asked about our family, what brought us to San Antonio, and what we did for a living. When it was her turn, Margaret inquired about the artist’s hobbies and passions. He revealed that his interests went beyond art to literature. He enjoyed writing horror fiction and was currently working on a novel about zombies in space.

As I listened to their conversation, I realized that I could present the gospel to this man with the themes of beauty and ugliness. And then Margaret set me up perfectly; she asked if he knew where he was going when he died. He said he was not sure because he was an agnostic.

Then it was my turn. I referenced his confession of being an agnostic. I pointed to the picture he was drawing and said, “When you look at a piece of art and see how beautiful and intricate it is, you automatically assume someone with an artistic sense designed and created it. Well, when you look at the beauty and intricacy of creation, you can make the same assumption. You can assume that someone with an artistic sense designed and created it. Artwork does not happen by itself, and neither did this world.”

I reminded the artist that though we live in a beautiful world, it is filled with ugliness: selfishness, hurt, pain, violence, and death. But I assured him that Jesus came into this world to address all this ugliness. I summarized the account of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:31-37). After Jesus gave the man the ability to hear and speak, the crowd who witnessed the miracle voiced this opinion about Jesus, “He has done everything well.” Another way you can translate the Greek word for “well” is “beautifully.” The crowd said Jesus had done everything “beautifully.”

The crowd’s observation enabled me to tell the artist that Jesus came into this world to bring beauty back to his creation. Jesus did that by taking all the ugliness of the world’s sins upon himself and experiencing a horrible, ugly death on the cross (remember, this artist liked horror stories). Jesus embraced all this ugliness so that he could give us the most beautiful thing ever—the privilege of seeing God face-to-face in heaven.

The message of beauty and ugliness seemed to resonate with the artist. Because he considered himself “a pretty open person,” he accepted my business card and my invitation to check out our church’s social media. There he would find more information about the beauty of God’s forgiveness of sins through his Son, Jesus Christ.

With caricature in hand, Margaret and I went on our way, and the artist turned his attention to his next customers. We can only hope and pray that as the artist distorted the facial features of his new patrons, his thoughts turned to the ugliness of sin and the beauty of Jesus’ forgiveness.

Author: Philip Janisch
Volume 110, Number 2
Issue: February 2023

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