From an early age, we are taught to “visualize” the books we read in our minds so as to enhance the realness of the story based on the power of our intellect. When we read, we picture the events through the gift of imagination and allow these images to stay with us to remember them. In fact, when we begin to read, we use visual examples to help us remember small words. This reading technique stays with us for the rest of our lives and allows us to see what we read and react to it in a multitude of different ways.
One of the ways we react to reading is through art. In the same way an author paints a mental picture for us to see an image through his or her words, a painter is able to capture these visualizations on canvass and show his or her interpretation to the world. God has given this talent to certain people as a microcosm of His artistry. For God is indeed and artist- this world wouldn’t be so beautiful without His personal brush strokes.
And yet, God was willing to send His only Son to be with us in both flesh and Spirit for a short time. Many artists have attempted to capture His Holy and human essence through the creation of various images, but with such a range of assumptions and so little physical descriptions mentioned in the Bible, God has allowed these artists the base their art on the imagination of their own free will. In turn, they have produced countless portrayals of the Biblical stories, each according to their own customs, cultures, and traditions. How all-encompassing it is to know that our Lord who created all humanity is represented by each race in the imagery of His own people
Should we worship these images? No. In the same way we wouldn’t worship the pages in our Bibles nor the ink inside them, rather, we worship the Spirit that inspired these words. In the same way we worship the divine Spirit that inspired the artists to create these holy images.
After all, wouldn’t we rather have our students producing artwork based on Christian virtues as opposed to the vanities of the material world? It seems that if our students are willing to take the visualization skills we teach them in Elementary reading classes and use them to produce art based on Christianity, it speaks volumes of their faith and holiness.
May Jesus live in our hearts forever!