Article From the Magazine:

Artistic Impressions: Known by Your Love

By David Jeremiah

To introduce this article, I’ve prepared a little quiz for you. I’m going to describe what a particular artist is best known for, and ask you to identify who it is. Fill in your answers, then check the end of the article to see how art-smart you are:

1. The greatest artist of the Dutch school: painted with lush, rich colors; a master of light, shadow, and human emotion; portraits, scenes from Amsterdam and the Bible (Supper at Emmaus, The Return of the Prodigal Son). ___________________

2. Modern Spanish artist; founder of Cubism style; painter, drawer, sculptor, ceramicist; famous for caricatures and abstracts as well as realistic paintings; considered a rebel in the world of art. ___________________

3. Twentieth century flamboyant Spanish surrealist: painted bizarre, irrational, fantastic images in meticulous renderings. Famous for The Persistence of Memory—limp, melting watch faces in an eerie landscape. ___________________

Everyone Is Known for Something

So, how did you do? Are you ready to teach your first class in art history?

The point of that exercise was not art per se. But what the exercise does prove is that artists are known for their specific style. Even without knowing their names or much about their work, just a brief description of their style was enough to trigger in your mind’s eye the artist I was describing.

It’s probably fair to say that artists have a way of looking at the world that is reflected in their work. Their art reflects their worldview, their convictions. Certainly, some artists work in more than one style; but stepping back and looking at their life’s work, there is usually a theme that runs through it.

It’s not just artists who are known for the theme(s) of their life’s work. Indeed, everyone is known for something.

Did you know that if I approached five of your close friends or family members and said, “Pretend that words are paintbrushes and this blackboard is our canvas. Give me ten broad brush strokes . . . ten descriptive words . . . that paint a picture of our friend,” I would begin writing down the words that came from those who know you best, and a theme—maybe several—would emerge.

If we did the same exercise about the art of Rembrandt, Dali, or Picasso, you would give me descriptive terms about their work—and themes would emerge. Whether we like it or not, our lives are a canvas on which we reflect the dominant themes of our daily lives. The question is not whether people are seeing those themes, but what those themes are.

If I walk into an art gallery and find a painting on the wall titled “Love,” on close examination, I should find that it’s a painting of you—or me, or any follower of Jesus. Christians are to be living definitions of l-o-v-e; impressions of the Savior.  “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

The love that is to characterize the Christian, according to Jesus in this verse, is not primarily affectionate, familial love. Important as that brotherly kind of love is, that is not the love Jesus speaks of here. Rather, the love we are to manifest is the same kind of love God manifested toward the world by sending Jesus to die for our sins (John 3:16). That love is agape love, the self-sacrificing love that would motivate one person to lay down his life for another. There is no greater love than agape love (John 15:13).

A Portrait of Love

Are you and I known by our love? Is love one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of us—especially those who don’t know Christ? Does the depth and quality of our love make others wonder about its source? Are they drawn to the love of Jesus when they meet us?

Allow me to offer a palette of five colors of love . . . five ways that we can leave an impression with those we meet that will encourage them to think of our Savior and His love for them.

1. Words of love. Words can build up as well as tear down. Ours should “always be with grace, seasoned with salt,” “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Colossians 4:6; Proverbs 16:24). The reformer, Martin Luther, said, “When I have nothing more to say, I stop talking.” And our mothers told us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Even if you have to confront, make sure you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

2. Deeds of love. God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul mentions 16 ways by which love is manifested in 1 Corinthians 13. It is not insignificant that love is both a noun and a verb. In fact, while words of love are important, if they are not supported by deeds of love, they will in time sound hollow—like “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

3. Thoughts of love. Our thoughts are not only private and internal, they are the building blocks of what we become. Solomon suggested that as we think in our hearts, so we become (Proverbs 23:7). Beyond how our thoughts help determine our actions, they are either an offense or a gift of love to God. David desired that even the meditations of his heart might be acceptable to God—and so should we (Psalm 19:14; 104:34).

4. Gifts of love. God has given to every person three things to manage for His glory: time, talent, and treasure. When God demonstrated how much He loves us, He gave His greatest gift—the life of His Only Son. Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). A synonym for “to love” is “to give.”

5. Steps of love. Every step we take in this life is in pursuit of something; everywhere we go, we are following someone or something. It’s not wrong if we pursue things for ourselves; but if all we are following is our own dreams, our life becomes self-centered instead of God-centered. Paul said he was pursuing something higher than the things of this world: “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Steps on that path will always leave love-shaped footprints in the sand.

If you didn’t pass the art test with flying colors, not to worry. It’s the art-of-the-heart test with which we should be concerned. Artistic impressions of love translate into heartfelt impressions of the person of Christ wherever we go. Be sure that’s the portrait you are presenting to the world.

Answers to the quiz:
1. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
2. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
3. Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
Learn more about the magazine and request your free copies today!

  • the love we are to manifest is the same kind of love God manifested toward the world by sending Jesus to die for our sins

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  • “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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