perspective, reflection

Gaining a New Perspective

Religious artwork is in a category of its own, and for a good reason. Unlike the Renaissance or the Baroque movements that have their own very distinct style and time-period, Christian art spans generations of artists, styles, countries, and even purposes. It is overwhelming to see the many facets and qualities of the Trinity depicted through mosaics, paintings, sculptures, altars, engravings, drawings, prints, and so forth.

When looking at artwork inspired by Christ and the Bible, ‘religious’ elements are easy to acknowledge and understand. In Art History courses, you are taught to not only look at the little details that the artist has carefully placed within the work, but common depictions that become a pattern as well. For instance, ‘Madonna’ or Mary, is typically shown holding Jesus (either as a baby or as an adult after His crucifixion.) Jesus, on the other hand, is generally portrayed with scars on his hands and feet. In many depictions, He is even robed with expensive garments and is surrounded by disciples and those eager to hear His teachings. The Holy Spirit, however, is shown through doves, nature, or a billowing cloud that surrounds the people within the painting. One element that is commonly depicted with care and precision, but that remains overlooked by many people, however, is the right hand of God.

In Christian artwork, the right hand of God is reserved as a place of honour and is generally shown as such. His hand is either raised up towards the viewer, shown holding valuable objects, or is even made to appear larger than the left. This is not surprising as the right hand of God is mentioned throughout the Bible. Psalm 63:8 is an excellent example of this, as David writes, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

When you have this knowledge, it can completely change your perspective of how Christ is represented in these works of art. Visually, we are even encouraged to regard life as if we are sitting at the right hand of God. It is the artist’s way of showing the patron the perspective that they should be taking, as they experience the world at the right-hand side of Christ.

During worship the other day, I was thinking about how important our perspective is, and how sometimes we need to change our view to see how God is moving in our lives. John 21 shows how valuable a shift in perspective can indeed be.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Let’s analyze this story for a minute. The disciples, who had spent all night fishing on the left side of the boat, did not even try casting their nets on the right side. Can we blame them? Why would fish swim on one side of the boat and not the other? The boat on which they were fishing was not large enough to separate them from a large school of fish, so why did their nets remain empty? When Jesus appeared to the men, He encouraged them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. He helped them to break away from routine and try something new. He told them to put in the work, and risk approaching their view of fishing differently. It took a new perspective; one that aligned with God’s, to fill their nets with fish that could barely be contained. At the right hand of God, Christ’s glory and provision were made known to them.

With a change in perspective, we have the chance to see things as God sees them. To not judge our neighbours by how they look or act, but to value them as God does. To not feel hopeless in our jobs, schooling, or finances because God sees things from a different perspective than we do. To not question finding a partner or spouse, because He has already chosen one for which we are well-suited. If we want a change in perspective, we need to allow ourselves to look at life in a new way. We need to put in the work, even when we don’t know what the reward may be. We need to approach our daily lives from our place in His throne room; at the right hand of God.