“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” Isaiah 52:7
You probably recognize her name, if not her face: Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her advocacy for women and children’s education. Malala rose to international prominence after a Taliban gunman shot her in the head because of her efforts to address the plight of women and children. Malala recovered from her injuries and became an even more outspoken advocate for children, authoring a book and speaking at political assemblies and on broadcasts around the world. From 2013 to 2015, she was named by TIMEmagazine as one of the most influential people globally. Malala proves that one person fighting for justice can make a beautiful difference.
As Christians, we recognize that we live on a battlefield. While God created the world in perfect peace and harmony (shalom), everything fell apart when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3). Since then, we battle temptation, sickness, violence, and death. Indeed, much of the conflict in this world comes from things we can’t even see. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
Into this spiritual war it seems unlikely that beauty—as defined by God—would make much of a difference. Yet it does. True beauty enters the fray by bringing justice for the orphan and widow (James 1:27), caring for the alien and stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19), and acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). These beautiful “weapons” have more power than we realize. Paul writes, “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).
The redemptive nature of true beauty is that it helps us to participate in bringing the kingdom of God to earth, the return of shalom. Fighting for justice, battling our sin, and loving others well are all beautiful to God, because we are fighting for the return of shalom. While those who do not claim the title “Christian”—like Malala—can and do help bring good and beauty from the brokenness of this world, how much more should God’s people strive to create productive change for the sake of bringing God’s kingdom shalom to earth? “For the kingdom of God,” wrote Paul to the Romans, “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). When we express inner beauty through external acts of kindness, faithfulness, and compassion, we help to bring shalom to this world that so desperately needs it.