We have just completed ArtPrize 9 in Grand Rapids and the ArtWalk here in our own fair city.
For me, it is just wonderful to see individuals using their God-given talents in so many inspiring ways. I am not an artist, per se, but I do enjoy seeing what others come up with. So, it was with great anticipation that my wife, Marilyn, and I went to Grand Rapids to walk around and see what was on display.
One thing I think is so special about ArtPrize is that often the artists are on hand and available for conversation about their creations. You learn what they were thinking and how the idea came to them for the piece of art.
We spoke with one man who put together an American flag with bicycle chain links. I forgot how many chain links he used to complete his work of art, but it had to be in the thousands. He said that he made friends with local bicycle shop owners by bring doughnuts in to them in exchange for old chain links. That in itself was quite creative!
When I think of the creative ability of human beings, as a Christian I can’t help but think that, indeed, we are created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) It was God who made us the way we are with abilities and skills to do great things and create inspiring works of art. The same is true for those who compose and perform music; those who write poetry and literature; as well as those who build bridges, design buildings or perform amazing feats in athletic competition.
And, of course, I am just scratching the surface. There are countless ways to express one’s creative nature. I would even go as far to say that every single person has some talent, gift or ability at their disposal to be creative. In that way, that small way, we are like God, the first and greatest Creator of all. The Creator of heaven and earth and all things on earth — including us.
That’s why it pains me that, at the same time that we have been celebrating art and creativity, we have been shocked by the destruction created by one man in the worst mass shooting in American history. The ability to create and the ability to destroy — such opposite extremes — but both potentialities lodged in all of us as human beings. How can that be?
You may object and say, “Oh, I would never do such a terrible thing. Don’t lump me in with Steven Paddock!” And yet, all of us have done things that we are not proud of, things we wish we could take back. Maybe you or I haven’t killed anyone, but we have disrespected another person, argued, fought or destroyed someone with words and disparaging remarks. We have misused our God-given abilities of expression and intelligence to lie, cheat, steal or gossip. Aren’t those terribly destructive things to do? Jealousy and anger, as well, have led us to destroy relationships with people.
The wonderful, yet sometimes tragic thing is that God has given us freedom. Yes, God has given us the freedom to do good or evil; to be creative or destructive.
If you ask me, we need more of the former than the latter. In fact, it would be better if the latter did not exist. But it does. Like my grandmother used to say, “We’re not in heaven yet.”
Paul, the great Christian missionary of the early church, put it this way: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Indeed, we are such an odd combination of good and bad.
But there is hope for us. Our hope is in the fact that God sent Jesus into the world. And Jesus put it this way: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus has overcome the troubles and sin of this world by taking it on himself through his death on the cross. As a result, we can have hope, peace and forgiveness. And what creativity then awaits us? The possibilities are innumerable!
How will use your God-given abilities — for creativity, or for destructivity? It’s pretty obvious to me what our answer should be.
Our world needs more people who reflect genuinely and positively the image of God in us. And despite our sinful, fallen nature with its tendency toward destruction, God is gracious and kind to us. He doesn’t hold our sins against us, but welcomes all who realize their need or reach out to Him in humility and faith.
— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church, Grand Haven.