Beauty and Ugliness – A Way to Share the Gospel

Last week, Margaret and I went to the celebration of ministry retreat in San Antonio, Texas. The
seminary organizes these retreats so that our synod’s pastors can be strengthened and
encouraged to continue in ministry. While we were there, we took the opportunity to get our
caricature drawn by an artist on the San Antonio River Walk. It was a fun experience that we
had never tried before. The artist drew Margaret first. As she posed and the artist drew, they
struck up a conversation. It started with typical small talk. The artist asked Margaret what
brought us to San Antonio, what we did for a living, and about family. Margaret reciprocated by
asking the artist about his art, how his day was going, and his other hobbies and passions.
Through this conversation, she found out not only did he have a passion for art, but he had a
passion for literature. He enjoyed writing horror fiction and was working on a novel about
zombies in space. As I listened to their conversation I was struck with an idea about how I was
going to present the gospel to this man: beauty and ugliness. And then Margaret set me up
perfectly to share the gospel with him. She by asked if he knew where he was going when he
died. He said he wasn’t sure. He indicated he was an agnostic. Then it was my turn.
Since Margaret had already laid the groundwork, I got right into it. I asked this man to clarify if
he believed in a god. And he said, “I’m an agnostic. I’m sure being a pastor you know what that
means. I’m open to ideas but I’m just not sure. I often pray and I literally start by saying,
‘whoever is listening out there.’” I responded by asking if he would be willing to listen to a
reason why there might be a God. He said, “Sure, go ahead.” I pointed to the picture he was
drawing and said, “When you look at a piece of art and see how beautiful and intricate it is,
with all its colors and prospective, you automatically assume someone with an artistic sense
designed and created that piece of art. Well, when you look at the beauty and intricacy of
creation you can make the same assumption. You can assume that someone with an artistic
sense designed and created this world.” I then acknowledge to him that it is either that or this
world just popped into existence by itself. Those are really the only two options. Either
someone or something created all this or they didn’t.
From there, I transitioned to talking about ugliness. I said that although we live in a beautiful
world there is a lot of ugliness in it. There is selfishness, hurt, pain, wars, etc. From there, I
asked him if I could tell him a story about Jesus. He seemed a little reluctant at first. But, after I
said, “It’s just a story, you can take it or leave it,” he consented. So, I told him the story of Jesus
healing a deaf and mute man. You can find this account in Mark 7:31-37. I would encourage you
to read it! In the account, Jesus dealt with a man who had never been able to communicate. His
ability to connect with other humans was hindered by his disability. But Jesus found a way to
connect and communicate with this man despite his disability. Jesus took this man aside, so it
was just the two of them. He gave him individual attention. Then, Jesus used his actions to
show this man that he was going to heal him and this healing came from God. Jesus put his
fingers in the man’s ears, He touched the man’s tongue, then he looked up to heaven, sighed
and said, “Be opened!” And the man was healed. He was able to speak and hear from then on.
After Jesus healed this man, the crowd reacts by saying, “He has done everything well.” But another way you can translate the Greek word for “well” is “beautifully.” The crowd said Jesus
has done everything beautifully.
After telling this story, I told this man how Jesus came to bring beauty back to His creation.
Jesus took all the ugliness of this world on himself including all the ugliness we contribute to
this world and he experienced the horrible consequences of the ugliness by dying on the cross
(remember this guy liked horror stories). Jesus did this so that he could give us the most
beautiful thing ever – the privilege of seeing God face to face in heaven.
The artist appreciated me sharing the message with him. He reiterated that he was a “pretty
open person.” The message of beauty and ugliness seemed to resonate with him. After he was
finished with our caricature, I gave him my card and invited him to checkout our social media
content if he ever wanted to learn more about Jesus. Then we went on our way.
I share this story to illustrate that God has given us many different metaphors or pictures we
can use to share the gospel. We often use the justification metaphor in our evangelism. With
this metaphor we explain we were guilty before God. But Jesus took the punishment and
because of that God was able to declare us not guilty and let us go free. This is an excellent way
to share the gospel! But it is not the only message God has equipped us with. When I was
sharing the message of Jesus with an artist I thought using beauty and ugliness as a picture of
sin and grace might be more effective. Maybe you can use this approach with someone in your