May 12, 2008 Ration

Romans 1:11-12

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

This is a gut check verse for artists on so many fronts!

In his labors, Paul says, “I long to see you…”, he doesn’t say, “I long to be seen by you.” Of course almost no one would be so arrogant as to say that. Yet be honest, artist, and ask your heart if when you go out with your artistry you long to see or if you really long to be seen. Our arrogance can be quite stealthy, even to us.

The Romans are the ones whom Paul longs for. Paul is not the object of his longing to see the Romans. He does not long to see them so that he can feel satisfied upon hearing their affections for him. However, Paul’s joy is an objective in his longing to see them. Paul as the object and Paul’s joy as an objective are not the same motivation.

Paul longs to see the Romans so that he can give them a gift. He is motivated by a longing to give that which he has enjoyed already. This motivation is rare in the arts. We may hear artists say that they love to give to the observer, to share with the audience what they take pleasure in, but very few truly take the stage from that intent as their actions and affections offstage bear witness to the true motivations of their heart. Our natural man desires to be the object of its labors, and that man must be put to death if we are ever going to experience the fullest and greatest pleasures in a labor in the arts.

Artists, let’s assume for a moment that our heart is motivated by “giving to” rather than “seeking from” the audience in our artistry. The question now stands to be: “What are we giving?” Paul longs to give a spiritual gift to strengthen them. Do you long for your audience’s strengthening, or have you settled for their entertainment? Be careful not to set your objective sights too low in your artistry. So-called “clean” entertainment can prove to be very weakening when "entertainment" is its own final end; whereas tender, artistic strengthening can prove to be extremely entertaining as it awakens the soul to fresh and valuable beauties!

There is nothing inherently wrong with being entertained. Solomon says there is a season to dance, laugh, and enjoy peace (Eccles. 3:1-8). The question is: “what is the end of our entertainment in those seasons?” If in our artistry, we ride within the frame of what is permissible (“entertainment is not inherently wrong”) rather than on the frame of what is strengthening, we will only slowly succumb to the numbing, paralyzing weight and confinement of what is permissible as we see it, and never enjoy the power, pleasure, and freedom to be had in what is from faith! We will be right where the devil desires as we graze on the goodness from the Lord in our enjoyments without enjoying God in what He has made enjoyable. All that God has made works together in His sanctifying process of maturing and strengthening our faith. Is this how we engage with the pleasures of artistic expression?

Artist, what entertains you? Entertainment? Or might God actually be the great end pleasure of all that He has made to be entertaining to your human frame? In your artistry, why not fully exercise your own faith and labor for the strengthening of your audiences’ faith so that both parties can be mutually encouraged by the maturity of one another’s faith?

Don’t be suckered to settle for clean, non-offensive, sterile entertainment that never nourishes your faith. Long, as Paul does, to give a strengthening spiritual gift that works to strengthen your audiences’ faith in your artistry. Your objective for your own joy will be met through the giving of yourself for your audiences’ greater strength. And how pleasurably entertaining that will prove to be!

Jason Harms


© 2008 The Gaius Project