Christianity: The Personal Pattern
Bread and Roses: A Sense of Creativity
In the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens
And houses clothed in grey
Are touched with all the radiance
That a sudden sound discloses.
For the people hear us singing
`Bread and roses, bread and roses.'
As we go marching, marching
Un-numbered women dead,
All crying through our singing
Their ancient call for bread.
Out lives shall not be sweated
From birth until life closes.
Hearts starve as well as bodies,
Give us bread but give us roses.
As we go marching, marching,
We bring a greater day.
The rising of the spirit
Meets the rising of the day.
No more the drudge and idler,
And that toil where one reposes;
But a sharing of life's glory:
Bread and roses, bread and roses.
(c) Mimi Farina'. 1976 Warner Com. Inc.
The presentation of the truth revealed in the Gospel normally takes the form of proclamation. God has, according to faith, acted in history, in word, and in intervention through great signs and wonders. The Gospel, in other words, begins with God and not with man. In this age of increasing religious illiteracy, however, proclamation of the Gospel requires prepared minds and hearts. "I have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing" (Heb. 5:11). Misunderstandings need removal. The `language of Canaan' (Isa. 19:18) must be made relevant to life as men and women know it. Not in `pop' or slang, but directed at the needs of men and women, felt but often unexpressed.
Verbal presentations of the Gospel frequently find themselves giving answers to questions that have not been asked - or not asked as yet. Can there, accordingly, be an approach to teaching which begins at the other end? Can we start the questions and find the answers? This approach to Bible study is not often the one we use. We have the answer (we believe) and then study to affirm it. In facing questions more complex and meaningful to life than are commonly asked, we find ourselves at a loss as to whether God has said anything to us of value on these topics.
The man of faith, however, trusts God and His wisdom. The Father anointed His Son to preach the Gospel to the poor. He sent Him to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to give light to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). God has .touched man with His revelation at the point of man's need. A question that affects life and is unanswered by God's revelation is a contradiction. If we do not see one, it is because we have not looked.
But, man is not God. Questions do not produce their own answers. Human need does not create divine revelation. "This is the duty of man to bring the questions together with the revelation. This is the condemnation: that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light . . ." (Jn. 3:19). Men are condemned because they assume God has no will for those areas of their lives in which they are unwilling to permit the light to shine upon. When we bring our needs and questions to the light, then our failing, our false gods, our weakness can be made manifest. Redemption is relevant to all of human life, and not as a mere cultural elective for the pious.
The Gospel needs to be made active in deed as well as word: in our homes, in our jobs, and in the church as well as the compartmentalized area we call "spiritual."
Bread And Roses
One of the interesting songs to come from the women's liberation movement, is a very moving tune written by Mimi Farina'. It reflects a view from the rebellion which characterizes most of the movement, of longing for something these women find missing amidst the stridence of their rhetoric. These women are troubled by the direction of a "liberating" effort which measures quality of life in the tangible "bread" of their movement. This concept that reality is measured only in the physical advances (physically, socially, politically, or economically) leaves their hearts ultimately cold. They cry out "Give us roses too!"
In our world as Christians there have been numerous defectors who looked upon the cold, sterile existence of some of their brethren and decided that "If this is Christianity then I want none of it." In their efforts to flee the shallow living of others they "escaped" into a darkness all their own - isolated, miserable, and beleaguered. They tasted the bread, but they missed the "roses." They never asked the right questions in their study: Is Christianity capable of touching all the needs of man? What does the Bible offer the aesthetic, creative, yearning of mankind? This article is too short to answer or ask all the questions that need answering, but this one we will consider: Does God offer us with the bread of life, the roses of life as well?
A Real Need
The view held by some of God's disciples that the Bible relates only to doctrinal matters is ill-placed. Often when brethren use the word "spiritual" as they speak of biblical themes, they are contrasting it with living in this present world. As if the spiritual goals of God were incompatible with a full, enjoyable, and happy life.
God created this world and all it contains, and he looked upon His finished product and said, "Behold, it is very good." God takes pride and satisfaction in the work of His hands. He rejoices in the earth and His delight is in the sons of men (Prov. 8:31). We can gaze upon the heavens and they speak of Him; day and night utter in a language all men understand, His presence (Psa. 19).
We are able to tell something about God, by looking at man. This is what "evidences" tell us. We can tell something of the nature of the Creator by observing that His creation has certain qualities. Man cannot possess what God does not have in greater measure. But more importantly to the man of faith, we can tell something about man by knowing the nature of God. Made in His image, man needs to create and form what he controls into something glorious.
One of man's basic needs `therefore' is a sense of creativity; the fulfillment and self-worth that comes in producing utilitarian beauty. The Bible addresses itself to this basic human need.
The Ultimate Medium
There is great satisfaction and fulfillment in producing art. The man who works in wood to create a piece of furniture feels contentment n the works of his hands. The woman who "builds up her house" is wise (Prov. 14:1). Whether she knits, or sews, paints or bakes, she can display not only a work of beauty, but a reflection of herself.
There are all forms of self-expression in art: writing, acting, singing, playing a musical instrument, collecting or arranging, the list is endless. But, not all have the talent, patience, or money to produce things of beauty or value. And after it is done - no matter how enduring a sustance we may make it from - it is ultimately destined to pass away.
It came as a shock to me one day when I realized fully the meaning of the Lord's words, "The day of the Lord will come . . . the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and all the works therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10). Along with this world will be lost all the mighty and beautiful works of men. The Michelangelo Pieta', the da Vinci Mona Lisa, the literature of the ages, the architecture of Kings and Potentates, the hallowed documents of statecraft, the jewelry of Czars and Queens in all their sparkling glory. All of it will be gone - man's creative genius and technical skills will melt, yellow and burn, and cease to exist. What will then be left?
"Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Pet. 3:13, 14). God has given to each of us the "ultimate medium" of expression - of creative and utilitarian value: the human life and soul. Our personality and its expression represent the only lasting medium in the universe. What we do with the human soul - with our life - is left only to us, and the brush of our free-will to daub what we will. In our divine architecture, the foundation has been laid by the hand of God, and no other foundation but His can be laid if the building is to stand. But, it is the Christian who then builds his temple upon the foundation laid for him by God. Some men build with gold, silver, and precious stones. Others use wood, hay and stubble. God's judgment will determine the lasting house and the mere facade. The man who counts his building as his own to desecrate for selfish purposes will ultimately be destroyed. We build for God's glory, not our own. And we can create a work of beauty in holiness and true dedication that no man or judgment can threaten.
God beautifies the meek with salvation (Psa. 194:4). No worldly work of art can compare with the beauty of a snow-flocked head of a righteous saint asleep in the Lord (Prov. 20:29). His church, working together in harmony, is the perfection of beauty (Psa. 50:2). In a practical way, we can fulfill this need to create which lies in every bosom by looking first to our own lives. Like potter's clay, we can be formed by the Master's hand into something good, or we can rebel, and spoil the potter's aim. In every house there are vessels of fine art and beauty, and others used for common purposes. If a man purges himself of common and dishonorable work, he can become fit to be used in his Master's house as a vessel of honor. But a worldly, material, and selfish life will make him fit for nothing but a chamber pot. We determine what form the vessel will take that will be used by our Lord. A life set apart and useful to the owner of the house, and for good service of every sort prepared, will be one utensil used for honorable purposes.
Therefore, do your creative best to present yourself unto God as one approved, a workman and craftsman unashamed of his work and art, ever skillfully applying the truth as God has given it. The result will be a work of God, created in Christ unto good works, by the diligence and steadfastness of a true artist.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 31, pp. 506-508