Many of you have probably heard the recent story about the woman who took it upon herself to restore a 19th century painting of Jesus. For those who haven’t heard, the story can be found here.
To make a long story short, Cecilia Gimenez, a woman in her 80s, had no training in restoration or background in art history, but took it upon herself to restore a 120 year old painting of Jesus Christ that belonged to her church in Zaragoza. Well, she failed. Miserably.
When I first heard about this, I was horrified. The history-buff inside me cringed at the thought of such an artifact being tainted, possibly permanently so. What kind of person would seriously think they could properly express what the original artist intended when they didn’t have the proper training, tools, or talent? What was once a beautiful, though fragmented, work of art depicting Christ (or the “white” version of him anyway) was transformed into something more resembling a monkey than a Messiah. I was in awe and a little bit angry at the audacity of the woman. But then I realized something even more horrifying: we, as Christians, distort Christ’s image every day.
Just like the woman, we often think we have enough training to skillfully reflect Christ’s message. So, instead of drawing conclusions strictly from the framework we have been provided, we fill in what we consider “the missing pieces” with our own opinions and ideas. We go into theological debates with unbelievers armed with the wrong tools, using loosely backed theories instead of scripture. And we arrogantly consider ourselves talented enough to be the spokespeople for Christ without fully grasping the humility and sacrifice of our own Savior.
However, like the woman in the story, we did it out of good intentions. We thought we would help people by filling in the frustrating gaps and holes in God’s Word with simple answers that didn’t create too much controversy. We thought people would like Jesus better if we made him a little fuzzier around the edges and easier to digest. Because of the “good intentions” of Christians, oftentimes the Jesus of today looks nothing like the original. Overtime, we have blurred the lines of doctrine, distorted Truth, and made Jesus into a laughing-stock instead of our Lord.
Today, Cecilia’s attempt has garnered worldwide attention and people are coming from all over to laugh and gawk at her failure. Some are even asking for her to be held responsible for the damage she caused to the historic artifact.
Thankfully, unlike the 120 year old painting, which experts have said may never be recovered, God’s Word is eternal and we aren’t powerful enough to destroy it. Christ trusted the beginning of His ministry to a bunch of sinners and look how far it has come since then. While we constantly fail at restoring Christ’s image, He is faithfully and graciously restoring us. We aren’t meant to restore Christ’s reputation on our own. The only one who can fully restore Christ’s image is the original artist – Christ himself. We must look to Him for guidance as we strip away the extra paint and added strokes that have been piled on over the years. We need to train ourselves in His Word so we can have the tools to defend it. And we need to be humble enough to admit it when we fail. Because we will: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even though we will be held responsible for how we’ve lived this life (as Cecilia will be), we can take comfort in knowing that Christ will always be redeemed in our failure and His death was justification for all of our sins, even being crappy Christians on occasion.
Colossians 2:8 – “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”