Recently at an event, a nice looking young man confidently walked up to me and cheerfully said, â€œHi Dr. Hairston! I\’m your Facebook friend!â€
Ohâ€¦OK!â€ I replied. â€œNice to meet you!â€
And without further conversation, turned and walked away.
I must admit, he caught me a bit off guard. Later, I thought about his greetingâ€¦
“I\’m your friend.â€ Friend? Really?
Years ago, I thought of a friend as someone with whom I had a close relationship. A friend was someone I called when I wanted to talk; someone who understood me and cared about my likes and dislikes. I shared â€œlifeâ€ with friendsâ€”joys, sorrows, secrets, regrets, happiness and heartaches. How
could a person I never met before walk to me in a public place and claim to a friend?
Facebook, Twitter and so many other mediaâ€”social and otherwise, have had amazing impact on our perceptions and philosophiesâ€”including something so basic as the outlook on â€œfriendship.â€ The new Social Media Bible even changed the word â€œfriendâ€ from a noun a verb. You can â€œfriendâ€ and â€œunfriendâ€ contacts.
The Internet and social media have basically redefined life. We have the opportunity to communicate across the globe seconds. We have the ability to communicate a message to millions with the click of a mouse. We can foster business growth and customer care without ever picking up the phone. It\’s fantastic, but also daunting; because with increased ability comes increased responsibility.
Think about the true concept of friendship. Although you can positively the power â€œtoolâ€ of electronic communication, you should never forget that the core of the human experience, real relationship means truly caring for, being concerned about and connecting to anotherâ€”which demands real communication.
At times, talking must supercede text messaging; and sharing your heart on the phone or in person must trump sending an email update.
According to Prov. 18:24 (NLT), friends can be real or fake. â€œThere are â€œfriendsâ€ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.â€ Real friends exhibit true love and loyaltyâ€”â€œA friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.â€ (Prov 17:17, NKJV).
Friends make sacrifices to demonstrate their love. â€œThere is no greater love than to lay down one\’s life for one\’s friends.â€ John 15:13 (NLT)
A few months ago, there was an exchange of negative emails between different sets of leaders in the Body of Christ; each accused the other of business and personal indiscretions.
The troubling part was that these leaders formerly had close personal and ministry relationships. However, at some point, the relationships broke down and there were points of disagreement. To make matters worse, thousands of peopleâ€”some of who were unsaved, unconcerned and skeptical about ministryâ€”were made privy to the details of these accusations (whether true or untrue). These masses of people weren\’t postured to pray or positioned to do anything about the information that was revealed. In one case, a professionally-designed e-blast was circulated to over 200,000 people!
Perhaps we\’re moving too fast through life and we\’re rushing to â€œdoâ€ Church instead of â€œbeâ€ the Church. An old song declared, â€œAnd they\’ll know we are Christians by our love.â€
The Internet has changed the way we perceive a lot of things, but it hasn\’t changed the word of God. Proverbs 17:17 states â€œA friend loves at all timesâ€ (italics added). Friendship isn\’t mysterious or mystical; it\’s actually quite simple. Friendship is the result of two people coming into agreement to mutually exchange agape love. Friendship is sustained and strengthened when both parties continue to operate in loyalty and integrity somewhere along falls out of love What make matters begins to function becomes a â€œfrenemyâ€ pretends to be a friend enemy); and kills the former friend, publicly or privately, with his or her tongue. And there is always collateral damage.
Oh yes, there are always reasons that friendships end. He or she did this or said that. But the real issue isn\’t what someone else said or did, the issue is a lack of love, which is, essentially a lack of grace. In 1 Cor. 13:4-6, Paul writes, â€œLove is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.â€ (NLT)
As Christians, we should be better able to sustain meaningful friendships. As Christians, we should not easily turn against our friends. As Christians, we should strive to love people despite their imperfections (like Christ loved us).
As Christians, we should be strong enough to love people out of their shortcomings (like Christ loved us).
Let me hasten to say that all acquaintances don\’t qualify as friendships, and all friends aren\’t mature enough to sustain relationships over lifetimes, evolving careers and changes in character. However, there are some friendships that end prematurely and abort purpose. For those, love is the answer.
Today, I encourage you to reevaluate your friendships. Whether you\’re the bishop or the bench-sitter, consider those to whom God has assigned you to be a friend. If you need to repent of your unloving, disloyal ways and go back and make peace and reconnect with that person, do it today. Although many circumstances may have changed, there is always hope for reconciliation, reconnection and recommitment.
Pray about it, and then be about it!