“We Had Fun”: Living in the Shalom of the Aesthetic Life

In our post-modern age, it is time to re-embrace beauty as much as truth and goodness. Beauty is found in the nuance of a painting found in an art museum the unexpected transition in a musical composition, in a tearful and exhilarating moment in a film.

But not only there: beauty is also experienced in a smiles on a bunch of kids’ faces, a gentle breeze against your face, a moment of lying still in the grass.

Calvin Seerveld says,
“If the aesthetic moment is missing in daily active responses to God and neighbor in the world, then that life is shorn of a great praise potential and you are liable to a closed down kind of grim slavery.” (Rainbows for a Fallen World, p. 54)
When the true, the good and the beautiful are combined in the holistic aesthetic life, shalom is the result.
Shalom is the more than “peace.” Cornelius Plantinga helps us understand the fullness of this critical Hebrew concept:
“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, p. 10)
At a local coffee shop, I was talking to an old, dear friend. We were discussing our experience of the Christian life. My friend’s walk has been marked by rigid rules and legalisms, by an emphasis on rational thinking and philosophical apologetics. But in the past few years, he has experienced Christ in refreshing new way: Not through a three-point sermon or a worship and praise service, not by winning the lost or winning an argument with an atheist.

His new experience with Christ is summed up with the simple phrase: “We had fun.”

The “fun” that he hears Jesus pointing him towards is not simply humanistic hedonism, but a joy of being with people and looking for the love of Christ in those relationships, of enjoying the goodness of God in the simple moments of laughs and smiles as well as earnest discussions about trials and tribulations. The “fun” that he is experiencing with Christ is the active God working in, through, and around my friend as he seeks the flourishing, wholeness, and delight of those he knows and comes in contact with (most of whom are not believers in Christ).

Shalom brings an aesthetic fulfillment to life when God declares, “Ahh, that’s the way it is supposed to be. That is what I call fun.”

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