Proverbs 27: 17
I want to follow up my Wednesday devotional on cultivating friendships by illustrating one of the major benefits of friendship: Holding each other accountable.
My favorite painter is Renoir. One of the great artists of the Impressionist period, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was known for many great paintings and portraits. I feel like Renoir treated his portrait subjects very tenderly, especially children. He was most interested in painting everyday life rather than heroic scenes, legendary stories, or grand portraits staged in unusual settings.
Renoir's major art benefactor was Paul Durand-Ruel. An art dealer like his father, Durand-Ruel purchased his first Renoir painting in 1870, starting a friendship that lasted decades through thick and thin. Interestingly, as someone who regularly painted his friends, Renoir never got around to painting Durand-Ruel's portrait until 1910, as pictured above.
In her book Renoir: A Senuous Vision, Anne Distel wrote:
Durand-Ruel was a pioneer in the field (of art dealing), not only because he was the first to recognize talented artists rejected by popular opinion but also because he set in place all the commercial strategies to support ‘his’ painters: shoring up prices in public auctions, organizing solo exhibitions, …using publications, and perpetually looking for new audiences.
Renoir undoubtedly benefited from such a patron. But Durand-Ruel was also a friend. He knew painters, and Renoir in particular, well enough to know that Renoir needed to be pushed. Like many artists, Renoir had many projects that he toyed with simultaneously, often satisfied to simply be turning out sketches instead of full paintings. Durand-Ruel held Renoir accountable to complete his paintings rather than leaving them half-done.
Renoir became a better, more accomplished artist with more output because of his friend Paul Durand-Ruel.
Proverbs 27: 17 describes such a relationship as the ideal:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
God uses others to keep you well-honed - and wants you to hone them as well. A friend can shape another's character. I read something recently: "You become most like the five people to which you are the closest."
For our 7-day practical faith, we need to put into practice the art of developing true relationships - friendships where we get to know each other deeply, emphasizing vulnerability and accountability with each other. It's not just because we should have friends in a superficial way or for popularity's sake; it's because we need friends in a iron-sharpens-iron, symbiotic, get-through-life way.
I remember a middle school girl who moved to our church from out of state. Shortly afterward, she discovered she had cancer. When she told her out-of-state friends, they told her, "Wow, (stinks) to be you!" When she told her new church friends, they said, "What do you need? How can I help? Can I pray for you?" And they held her hand, listened to her, let her cry, went with her to treatments, literally held her up when she could barely stand. Which friends were superficial? Which friends were get-through-life friends?
Renoir admitted that he wouldn't have become the artist he was without Durand-Ruel, because his friend pursued him and held him accountable. Who is your friend who pursues you and holds you accountable? And are you a friend who pursues others and holds them accountable?
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