The Power of a Portrait (Ephesians 2:10)

My evening commute is an interminable trek through traffic lights and down congested motorways, and one of the few things that keeps me sane is a sprawling collection of podcasts. One of those is Kind World, a series of stories about acts of kindness, the most recent edition of which tells the story of Michael Reagan.

Reagan is a Vietnam veteran who, upon his return to the US, started painting portraits of service members killed in action. Through this he discovered the power of his art to allow family members to grieve, to process, to say goodbye and, in the face of all this, to discover something about his own history.

And it’s only a six minute episode, but it stirs up questions, questions about the power and possibilities of art, about how we mourn, about how we treat those who return home once our wars end.

And yet beyond that I thought of the moment in Ephesians when Paul declares us to be God’s handiwork which, when you get behind the language means we’re God’s work of art. And that thought collided with Michael Reagan’s portraits and the thought of how we, God’s masterpieces painted in His image, are cut down in war and spit on each other when we return from the fight. And all I could hear beyond the podcast and the passing traffic was that this should not be how things are, and that when we can see the Imago Dei and another’s humanity in a work of art, we can start to be healed.


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