Monday, August 27, 2007

“Whatever is Lovely” Part I

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…think about such things.” Philippians 4:8, NIV

“Whatever is lovely”—for me this is the most elusive quality in Philippians 4:8. How can anyone define what is lovely? Isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Yet maybe this old axiom is true only to a point, for there seems to be an innate sense of what’s beautiful in all of us. Otherwise why do some things commonly seem lovely to us all? Like mountains colored by sunset and the fragrance of flowers. Or the texture of a kitten’s fur and the sound of voices singing in harmony. And who can resist a child’s smile?

More than that, God created all these things and much more besides, which he himself declared beautiful (Genesis 1:31, 2:9). So if God has a sense of what’s lovely and we are created in his image, why wouldn’t we also have that sense?

Granted, our sense of beauty can be twisted and distorted. It is part of having a sin nature. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tell when something pleases our senses—whether touch, taste, sound, smell, or sight—and feel the softening of the heart when we meet such things.

And that heart-softening may be the true mark of what’s lovely. Even the Greek word Paul uses in Philippians is a combination of the preposition to and the word philos—love or tender affection. What is lovely moves us toward love and affection.

So perhaps beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder as it's in the tenderness of the beholder's heart.

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