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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends

By J.R. Miller

      When Jesus called his disciples his friends--he meant that he was also their friend. Then he intimates something of the meaning of his friendship for them, when he says that he called them no longer his slaves--but his friends. There is a vast difference in the two. The slave does not have the master's confidence. He is only a piece of property. He has no rights, no privileges, is never consulted about anything, has no share in the matters considered, no liberty of opinion even regarding his own work. A friend, however, is taken into equality, into comradeship, then into confidence. He is conferred with, is a partner in his friend's affairs.

      Friendship with Christ gives thus the highest exaltation possible to any man. How commonplace are the loftiest elevations of earth, compared with the privilege of being a friend of Christ!

      But is Christ the friend of his followers in these days? Is it possible for the Christian to establish a personal friendship with Jesus Christ, like that which John and Peter had with him? Yes! he died, then rose again and ever lives, walking with us on the earth--as our companion, our friend. There is no other one who can be to us the one thousandth part in closeness, in intimacy, in fellowship, that Christ can be. He is the realest friend any of us can have.

      Think what Jesus was as a friend to the poor people to whose door he came in the days of his flesh. Perhaps he did not seem to do much for them. He did not build them any larger or better houses, nor give them richer food, nor make softer beds for them to sleep on, nor weave for them finer, warmer garments to wear. He was not what men call a 'philanthropist'. He endowed no institutions of charity.

      The friendship of Jesus to the common people, was not shown in what he did in material ways; nor in what he took away of the common burdens, the hardness, the wrongs they suffered--but in his sympathy for them, in the cheer and courage he put into their hearts, in the peace within which he imparted, which made them better able to go on in their lives of toil and struggle.

      So it is that today the friendship of Christ is at work among people, making them braver to bear their burdens. Nothing does so much to help those who suffer--as to know that somebody cares. The most that even Christian teaching can do ofttimes, is to assure the struggling world that Christ feels and sympathizes.

      Think what the friendship of Jesus did for his disciples. They were not great men, wise, or cultured. "He spent his wealth of intellect upon inferior people--fishermen and the like, who did not comprehend one tenth of what he said." This means that his personality was the chief power of attraction in him--that his gentleness, faith, and goodness were more influential than even his gracious words. The apostles were drawn and influenced, no doubt, more by the man himself than by the greatness of his words. Men who could not understand his wonderful teachings were blessed, comforted, cheered, uplifted by the power of his personality. It was wonderful how they were transformed, made great, by their companionship with this "Man from Galilee."

      Take Peter. When he was first brought to him, Jesus saw a man full of faults--crude, undisciplined, unlettered, rash, impetuous. Nobody dreamed of the rough, blustering old fisherman, as having any promise of good, of beauty, or of greatness in him. Nobody thought he would be one of earth's strongest men in future years, with influence reaching all over the world. But the moment Jesus saw him he said, "You are Simon--you shall be called Peter."

      He saw in this man of the fishing-boat, possibilities of large-heartedness, of noble leadership, of power and influence, of sublime apostleship. We know what Simon was in his crude beginnings, and what he became through Christ's making of him. Had Jesus not found him and become his friend--he would have lived and died as a rough, uncultured fisherman, for a few years casting his nets into the Sea of Galilee, then dying unhonored, and being buried in an unmarked grave beside the lake. His name never would have been known in the world. All that Peter is today--is the fruit of the friendship of Christ for him.

      Or think what the friendship of Jesus was to John. He was one of the first two who came to Jesus. Several hours were spent in an interview one afternoon. What took place in that blessed experience, we do not know--but we are sure that John received impressions and impulses that day, which changed all his life. It seems that John was originally intolerant, fiery, resentful. But all his fierceness was cured by the gentle and softening friendship of Jesus, which lay about him continually like an atmosphere of summer. John's influence in the world has been marvelous. It has been like a holy fragrance, breathing everywhere, sweetening the air, softening human hardness, making men gentler.

      The friendship of Jesus was not always soft and easy. Sometimes it seemed stern and severe. "Do not think," he said, "that I came to send peace on the earth! I came not to send peace--but a sword!" This word appears to break like a false note in a Gospel, whose keynote was peace. Yet there is work for the sword even in love's ministry. Human friendships sometimes err in over-gentleness. Faithful friendship is sometimes required, to speak the word of rebuke, though it should always be in love. Christ loves us too well, not to smite the evil he sees in us. His holiness is the enemy of everything in our life--which is not beautiful and good. For whatever then there is in us that is wrong, he brings the sword. We are not perfect, and cannot be perfect until every evil element is thrust out. Christ would not be our truest friend--if he sent peace to our hearts--when they were cherishing pride, self-conceit, and selfishness. Love must come then, first as a sword.

      There is much mystery in the friendship of Christ. Perhaps no question is asked more frequently than, "Why does Christ send us suffering or pain?" In one of the Gospels, there is an illustration of the dealing of Christ's friendship, which may help us to see love in the pain and sorrow.

      It is in the story of the Bethany family. The brother fell sick. Jesus was absent. A messenger was sent to tell him, "the one whom you love--is sick!" We would say he would start at once and travel in haste to get to his friend as soon as possible. But the record reads strangely indeed, "Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick--he stayed where he was two more days." That is, because he loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus--he waited two whole days after hearing of his friend's illness, before he started to go to him. It was not accidental that he did not get to Bethany in time. It was not neglect in his love. It was not lack of interest in his friends. The delay was part of his friendship. Nothing went wrong, therefore, with his love---when he did not come for four days--and Lazarus died. Nothing went wrong in your home when your prayer was not answered at once--and your friend died. It was all love.

      We know much about friendship in this world--far more than we think we know. Our friends mean more to us by far than we dream they do. Our friends make us strong. In fear and danger--they are a refuge to us. In suffering--they comfort us, perhaps, not by what they say to us or do for us--but just by what they are. Ofttimes our friend is a hiding-place for us, and this is one of the offices of Christ as our Friend--we may hide in him. Christ's companionship is a refuge in which we may find shelter in loneliness.

      You are in some great sorrow. The words of the people who are trying to console you--seem only empty echoes. Then one comes in who has been with you in deep experiences of trial in the past, one who knows you and loves you, and whom you love. There is sympathy in his eye, there is comfort in his words. You have found a refuge, and hide away in your friend's presence. So Christ is a hiding place for us in whatever experiences of trouble, loneliness, or sorrow we may ever find ourselves.

      An old prophet gives a picture of a glorious sheltering: "A Man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a great rock in a weary land." There are some men who are indeed all this in a measure to their fellows. Nearly everyone of us knows someone who is a hiding place to us from the fierce winds of life, a covert to us from the wild tear pest, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, like a well of water in a place of thirst.

      But this wonderful picture is realized in full measure--in only one Man who ever lived. We thank God for the human friends who mean so much to us, in whose strong friendship we may hide ourselves in all the bitter hours of life, and who never fail us. But we thank God most of all for the Man Jesus Christ, in whose friendship we find fullness of sympathy, of strength, of tenderness.

      What a fearful thing sin is! How it imperils our lives! We may hide our secret sins from our human friends. We would not want to have our hearts photographed, with all their spots and evils, their jealousies, envies, meannesses, suspicions, bad motives--all our secret life--and then have the photograph held up before the eyes of our neighbors! We would not dare trust even our nearest loved ones to see all this--and be sure that they would still be our friends. But Christ sees this picture all the while, sees all the evil that is hidden in us--sees all, knows all--and is still our Friend! We do not need to try to hide our weaknesses, our failures, from him. Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe, absolutely safe, with Christ, from whose love nothing can separate!

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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