Nothing that is not beautiful is suitable for a place in a Christ-like life. Strength is essential, but strength does not need to be rough and unlovely; art has learned to give it graceful form. Truth, honesty, justice, and righteousness are prime elements in a worthy life; but they do need not be unbeautiful. Sometimes, it is true, we see people in whom these great qualities are strongly marked, but in whom beauty is lacking. Some even boast of being blunt persons, meaning that they say what they think, not caring how they may say it. But there is no reason why any sturdy quality of character should be lacking in loveliness. We may clothe the plainest virtue in garments of grace. We may be honest, and still be gentle and kindly. We may be true, and still live very sweetly.
In a cluster of “whatevers,” indicating the principal qualities in an ideal character, Paul includes “whatever things are lovely” (Philippians 4:8). Perhaps it has been too much the habit in Christian teachers to overlook beauty as an essential feature of a complete life. Christ, Who is always to be our model, was “altogether lovely.” He was strong, true, just, and righteous; but there was no flaw in His character, and no defect in His life. We should never tolerate in ourselves anything that is not beautiful.
Sincerity is one element in loveliness.
Artificiality is never beautiful. There are many people who suffer greatly in their lives by reason of their pretentious behaviors. They are unnatural in their manners. They seem to always be acting under the restraint of rules. There are some who use a great deal of exaggerated language in complimenting their friends, and even in expressing the most commonplace feelings. There are those whose very walk shows a studied air, as if they were conscious of a certain importance and a burden of greatness – thinking that wherever they appear, everybody’s eyes follow them with a sort of admiration and worship. All such behaviors in manner, speech, dress, and disposition are unlovely. They are classed with insincerities. Only the simple, authentic, natural life is truly beautiful.
Unselfishness is lovely.
Selfishness has many ways, too, of showing itself. Indeed, it cannot be hidden; it crops out continually in act and word and disposition. There are those who are never willing to put themselves out to do a favor, or to show a kindness to others. They may talk unselfishly, affirming their interest in people and their friendship for them; but when the test comes, Self asserts itself. Selfishness is simply the absence of love – and love is not self-seeking. But truly, unselfishness is lovely! It does not count the cost of serving. It loves unto the uttermost, and never fails in helpfulness. It not only causes one to think of others as they do of themselves; but, like the Master, it causes them to forget self entirely.
Another lovely attribute in the Christian life is peace.
It never worries. It is never fretted. It is quiet, and not noisy. It is the quality of a self-disciplined life. Hurry is always unbeautiful. The lovely life is never in haste, yet it never loiters. It is self-poised. Hurry shows itself in flustered manners, in hasty and often rash speech, and too often in ungoverned temper. The exhortation, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” does not refer merely to speech; but especially to the spirit, to the manner, and to the whole bearing of the life.
Nothing is lovelier in life than the spirit of contentment.
Fretting mars the beauty of many faces. Discontentment spoils all one’s world. Out of whatever window he looks, the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing; but if there is a contented mind, there is only good seen everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those with the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, and the most luxurious furniture; but those in which glad, happy hearts dwell. A mind at rest glorifies the plainest surroundings and even the hardest conditions. Paul was in a prison when he wrote, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therein to be content.”
Love is the great master-secret of all beautiful things in character!
Love deals also with the manner of life’s expression, as well as with its acts. Many good deeds are done in a very unbeautiful way. Some people do kindnesses in such an unfitting way that those whom they help wish they had not tried to help them! There is a great deal of thoughtlessness, too, in many people. They love their friends and are ready to do anything they need, even at much cost or great sacrifice; but they utterly fail in the amenities and graces which are the charm and sweetener of all beautiful helpfulness. Love in the heart should always inspire whatever things are lovely in behavior, in conduct, and in disposition. And nothing that gives pain to others – either in act, word, tone, or manner – can be lovely.
We are told that love “does not behave rudely.”
There are many things which cannot be said to be sinful, which are still rude. They are not beautiful. They are unrefined. All displays of uncontrolled temper are rude. All harsh and unkind words are rude. Rudeness in every form is out of harmony with the spirit of love.
We need to pray continually that we may have the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would be a good thing if we all were to read the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians at least once a week all through our lives! It would be like looking into a mirror which would expose the rude things in our behavior, so that we might cure them.
The cure for rudeness is not found in books of etiquette, nor in any mere external culture – but in love in the heart! Rudeness of all kinds soon yields to refinement of spirit. Love makes the roughest man gentle. It inspires in us all beautiful things: gentleness, kindness, good temper, thoughtfulness, pleasantness, every form of unselfishness, the spirit of serving, and the truest courtesy. Jesus was the truest Gentleman Who ever lived, and all who truly follow Him will catch His spirit and learn the beauty of His refinement.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Hope Richards | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.