By Gerald Cowan
A young artist had painted his concept of the last supper of the Lord with His disciples. He wanted a critical evaluation of his work, so he took the painting to an admired and famous writer. After a long and careful look the writer pointed to the central figure in the painting as said to the artist, “You don’t love him enough.” The artist exclaimed, “But that is supposed to be the Lord Jesus!” The writer calmly replied, “If you loved Him more you would have painted Him better.”
Interesting concept, isn’t it? Suppose the artist had said, “I did the best I could.” Surely no critic would be so crass and cranky as to say, “If you can’t paint the Lord’s portrait perfectly, you ought not to do it at all.” Now, I am sure some would quibble with me on this and say that no one knows what Jesus really looked like, so nobody should draw anything to represent Him. That is probably true – I would probably want to agree with that. Maybe we should not draw pictures and say they represent any biblical figure, especially not the Lord Jesus Christ – certainly not something supposed to represent God.
I remember a six year old child who was drawing something that she said was God. Her mother said, “Honey, nobody knows what God looks like.” “Well, they will when I get finished,” the girl replied. OK, forgivable in a naive child. But what if the artist is Michelangelo and his work is noted and treated reverently by all who visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican? There’s no excuse at all for Michelangelo, or any other notable artist who’s done something of the same violation of God’s own command. And there’s no excuse for anybody accepting his concept and assuming he knows something about God from it. Now, having said all that, there is a valuable lesson we can learn from the story of the artist and the critic who say, “You don’t love Him enough,.” and “if you loved Him more you would have painted Him better.”
Suppose someone were to say, “I believe the Bible is God’s word and I am trying to live by it.” But the person is not living up to the standard presented in the scripture. You might say to him, “You don’t love the scripture enough, otherwise you would do a better job of applying it to your own life.” Suppose one sings, “I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode, the church our blest Redeemer bought with his own precious blood.” But his life style is unbecoming to a Christian. He says and does things that bring reproach upon the church. Could you say he doesn’t love the church kingdom of Christ enough? How about one who says, “I want to go to heaven – I really want to go to heaven.” But he does things that place his soul in jeopardy, things he cannot justify by the scripture, things the Lord has indicated He will not accept but will condemn one for doing. Would you say that person does not love his own soul as much as he should? You could also say he doesn’t love the Lord or the scripture or heaven as much as he should – otherwise he would be more careful in what he says and does, in his words and actions, and in his lifestyle.
Fact: people ought to be able to look at us and see Christ, listen to us and hear Christ, evaluate our lives and be able to glorify God (Mt. 5:13-16, Phil. 2:5 and 2:11-16). In some sense each of us is painting a living portrait of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). We must do it as accurately as possible. Perhaps the writer was correct in his evaluation of the young artist’s work. If he had loved the Lord more he would have done a better job of portraying Him. And if we loved the Lord more, no doubt we would do a better job – nothing less than our very best – in portraying Him, to our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow workers. We would do the best we can in portraying Him to brothers and sister in the church as well. We would certainly not misrepresent Him. If we presented our living portrait of Jesus to a knowledgeable person for honest and critical evaluation, we might hear him say, “I think if you loved Jesus more you would be painting Him better.”
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com