Art in the Christian Life (5)
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6.6-9
Art as reminder and statement
I once knew a pastor who understood the way art can function to make a statement about what’s important to us. His home was decorated with all manner of artifacts from Asia and Africa – masks, drawings, pieces of furniture, knick-knacks, and so forth. These were items he had accumulated over the years, during many trips abroad, or that others, knowing of his interest in Asian and African art, had given to him and his wife as gifts.
But he did not collect these statues, prints, tapestries and other objects primarily for their beauty – even though he derived a great deal of enjoyment from them, and could talk about any one of them with relish. Instead, these objects functioned as reminders to him, and to all who entered his home, that Christians are a missionary people and a worldwide community, and that our primary mission is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, the décor of his home was a statement concerning his priorities, and the priorities of the church he served.
It was no coincidence that this church had the largest and most expansive missions outreach I have ever seen.
What does your home say?
A fair amount of literature is available explaining that the way people decorate their homes says a great deal not only about what pleases them, but what they believe.
In some homes, not much care is given to what hangs on the walls, how furniture is arranged, or whether things are kept neat and tidy. Such homes will certainly have a television, and this may be the focus of attention of the home’s inhabitants. The home may say, “Whatever,” and that’s just fine with those who live there.
In other homes, quite the opposite can be observed. Although a television set may be included, more attention is given to the décor of the home, and to the way things are arranged and kept.
While you might not decorate your home with artifacts from Asia or Africa, the choices you make concerning the appearance of your home say much about your interests and convictions. In the way we decorate, furnish, and keep our homes and property is an opportunity to use art to remind yourself of what’s important to you, and to declare your concerns to any who visit in your home. That art may be prints on the wall or music in the CD player, or your own artistic work of keeping the lawn or arranging the home. Whatever it is, it will say something about you and your beliefs.
When the Lord instructed the people of Israel to “write” His Law on the doorposts of their homes, and on the gates of their city, I doubt He meant this literally. God Himself has “written” His Law on our hearts, as image-bearers of God (Rom. 2.14, 15), and His Spirit is “re-writing” His Law on the hearts of those who believe in Christ (Ezek. 36.26, 27), now the Spirit of the Law, and not merely its letter (cf. 2 Cor. 3.4-6). God’s purpose in doing this is that the Spirit of the Law, written on our minds, hearts, and consciences, might remind us of His priorities and fit us to declare, by words and deeds, the love we have for Him and our neighbors.
Similarly, by “writing” the Law of God on the doorposts of our homes and the gates of our cities, we make a statement about the kind of wholesome and edifying culture we support, and remind ourselves of the beauty, goodness, and truth of God.
Art and culture are powerful tools for declaring our deepest convictions and highest priorities. Christians are called to do everything for the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12; 1 Cor. 10.31. This includes how we care for our persons and property – the music we choose, our manner of dress and conversation, how we adorn our homes, what we read, the meals we prepare and how we present them, the orderliness and care with which we keep our property, and much more. By taking care to “write” the Kingdom priorities of God in all these areas, we bring the light of His glory to the world, precisely as He intends.
Our homes can be a work of art, reminding us of God’s goodness, beauty, and truth; and they can declare those virtues to all who may visit. Let us choose carefully, therefore, how we decorate, furnish, and care for our homes, lest by our ignorance or indifference, we misrepresent the core values and concerns of our lives, and miss a wealth of everyday opportunities to glorify God through the gift of the arts.
1. How much of a conscious effort has gone into the way you decorate and keep your home? Do you see this as an opportunity to express your faith? Explain.
2. Obviously, there are some kinds of décor, and some ways of keeping a home, that Christians ought to avoid. What would you suggest as some guidelines for thinking about making a home more expressive of our calling to God’s Kingdom and glory?
3. The Law of God is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). It is the Law of liberty and love, freeing us from the deceptions of sin, and fitting us to be agents of grace. What would it mean to “write” this Law on your home?
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with some Christian friends about the subject of this article. How much thought do they give to what the décor of their homes, and their manner of dress, conversational style, and work habits, say about their deepest beliefs, convictions, and priorities?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.