Art imitates life

Pastor Tom Jeske

Artistic expression finds a rightful place beneath its Creator.

Watercolor, charcoal, the sheen of oil paint on old canvas; little stones assembled in a mosaic or a big stone trimmed for a lintel; an avenue of banners, a medieval tapestry, the drape of fabric over a shoulder; silver and turquoise jewelry, fine gardening, items woven or welded or wrought: this is art. Art is a human response to life in God’s world.

Little of it comes without the accompaniment of music from black and white keys, strings, digital boxes, brass, or wind. And just think how precious is God’s gift of language! Ideas are scribbled on a yellow pad; lyrics are tapped into a laptop—words used to record, to incite, to soothe. Words to win a heart or to close a mind are art.

We love a story, so we love the stage. The attendant costumes, scenery, lighting, sound, and movement to music—all art.

Art is a created thing. God created the originals. He designed, he invented, he directed. God set the boundaries, while we work inside them. Artistic expression finds a rightful place beneath its Creator.

“Art imitates life,” we say, learning by watching as Adam searches for words to describe Eve, as the woodworker touches chisel to wood, as the seamstress purses lips lined with pins.

Art must serve the Master’s purposes. When he directed his human creatures to “subdue [the earth]” (Genesis 1:28), God knew that he had included in his bundle of gifts the capacity to think artistic thoughts, to invent pencil and paper, to fabricate Stradivarius and Stratocaster.

“Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4,5).

But the whole creation has been groaning in bondage to decay (Romans 8). Included is art, worshiped as a god by many. “If I have a thought, that thought needs to be expressed.I must be true to myself; I must follow my Muse. Should someone set limits for me, it is my duty as an artist to step across them.”

So the eyes God gave our children to study his world now take in sights, ideas, and practices that sicken and stimulate to sin. In editorial, in the theater district, in the dance, at the cinema, God is ignored, insulted, lied about. An hour in Borders or Barnes & Noble shows us via fashion designer, storyteller, and photographer uncounted images of wrong sex and brutality and occult.

Just because I have a thought does not mean that thought is to be spoken. Just because you have an impulse does not mean that impulse requires expression. As a sinner-saint, the Christian must learn the discipline of suppressing many thoughts and impulses . . . and repenting of them.

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). So the Christian does not banish, eradicate, or marginalize art, muttering something about “all this useless beauty.” But we also remember that God did condemn those improvising on musical instruments when they did not view themselves as accountable to him (Amos 6:5).

Content yourselves within his statutes, Christians. It’s no sin to be glad you’re alive. Bach would write Jesus’ name on top of a piece of paper and then get down to writing a new piece of music each week for his congregation.“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Copyright ©
Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE