I Have Called You Friend
This lovely painting of two friends reading together comes from the French impressionist, Pierre Auguste Renoir. His first foray into art was creating designs on fine china, but he went on to become a prolific painter, creating several thousand paintings in his lifetime. In his later years, he suffered severe rheumatoid arthritis which left him confined to a wheelchair with severely deformed hands. Even then, he found a way to continue painting. Before his death in 1919, he was able to see his paintings hanging in the Louvre alongside the masterpieces of other great artists. We don’t always get to know the impact of our lifework, but he was blessed with that knowledge.
I picked this painting because it spoke of friendship to me and in John 15:14, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants. Instead, I have called you friend.” What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? Here is one way to look at it. Say you were in a town you were not familiar with, going to a certain destination. Your GPS signal doesn’t work, so you go up to one of the locals and ask him how to get where you need to go. He draws you a map, which is helpful.
But what if, instead of giving you a map, he gets in the car with you and takes you there himself?
He is not giving you a plan; he is giving you himself. Similarly, God does not just give us a plan—he gives us himself. Sometimes we look to the Bible as an instruction book that tells us how to get to our desired destination. That is true to a certain extent, but it is so much more.
If all we’re doing is working the plan we think God has laid out for us then chances are, we are more like that servant than a friend. The servant tries to earn the love and respect of the Master by doing all the right things but doesn’t know the Master personally. God becomes more like an employer than a friend.
Jesus has called you friend. He doesn’t seem very concerned about whether or not we deserve to be his friend. He is not our friend because we’re such great friends, but because he’s a great friend. He doesn’t love us because we’re perfect—he loves us because he is perfect. He loves us not on the basis of what we can do for him, but on what he has already done for us.
Being Human connection: I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a friend like that right now.
Featured art: Pierre Auguste Renoir, “The Reading,” circa 1890