As fun as they’ve been, I’m taking a break from the unChristian articles this week. I got a call from a person struggling with the issue of grace the other day, and ever since that conversation, I’ve found myself thinking about pottery…
There is a Japanese practice known as kintsugi. Said to have originated in the 15th century, kintsugi is a specialized style of repair for dishes. When a dish breaks, rather than relying on metal staples to fix it (the standard repair in Feudal Japan), kintsugi artisans fill in the cracks with a gold-based lacquer. The dishes again become functional, and the results are stunning to behold. Shooting through the broken cracks of the dish are ribbons of gold that glint in the light and add new beauty that the unbroken dish had not possessed. In fact, at the height of their popularity, kintsugi dishes were so prized that many collectors were accused of smashing their dishes on purpose to have them repaired in this beautiful style.
Kintsugi is a craft that takes something broken and unusable, and not only restores its function, but turns it into a one-of-a-kind work of art. As Christians, if we keep our eyes properly attuned, we can see God working a similar craft on the people around us. Other people’s cracks and blemishes might be more than apparent to us, but we worship a God who seeks to repair these and bring about new beauty in the process.
The Bible is full of such broken people. Throughout Scripture, God uses drunks, murderers, adulterers, thieves, liars, prostitutes, and every manner of disreputable individual. He takes these people and reworks them, mending their broken spirits, piecing them back together and filling in the cracks to bring about beauty. He uses them for His purpose. He calls them to His side. Ours is a God who can take even the most flawed person and make something beautiful.
Perhaps the most striking example is the Apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus. Once the most notorious persecutor of Christians, God broke and remade him into a tireless servant of the early church. Paul never stopped marveling at this transformation, and he repeatedly speaks of his faults in his writings, calling himself the “worst of sinners” in his first letter to Timothy. He also speaks of God’s grace, saying in 1 Corinthians 15,
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
On accepting God’s grace into his life, a change has been worked in Paul. His cracks and faults have been mended with gold, and he is a new creation. A fallen and broken man has been remade into someone upright and devout, dedicated to the God who reshaped him and serving no other master. That is the power of God’s grace, and the Apostle testifies on:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
We worship a God who abhors sin. It is the thing that separates us from God’s glory and prevents us from living into His full love at every turn. But we also worship a God who is a master sculptor. He is a God who takes our faults and repairs us, who reworks us in gold, and makes us a new creation reconciled to Him in all His righteousness.
He is a God of grace.
Grace and Peace,