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Would Jesus Friend Me On Facebook?

Would Jesus Friend Me On Facebook? Nancy wisely pointed out to me that this might be hard since I’m not even on Facebook. Facebook is a social media platform where photos, opinions, events and information can be posted and exchanged. Instagram is another popular way to do this, and there are probably others.

Social media is increasingly becoming one of the main ways we communicate and have relationships with one another. More and more of us use Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, Wikipedia, blogs, email, or virtual games.

Currently, over 2.85 billion people worldwide use Facebook every month. The average Facebook user spends 20 hours a month on the site. Twitter has about 200 million users everyday.

Social media can be fun, but it also has its issues.

Several years ago, a psychologist found that boys and young men are spending so much time on internet and with video gaming that they are addicted to stimulation in all parts of their lives.[1] This psychologist says that by age 21, boys spend 10,000 hours gaming, and two-thirds of that time in isolation. They aren’t talking to or relating with anyone. And so, their brains are rewired to always need change, novelty, and excitement.

Slow, constant, and more passive things don’t work for them. And because relationships with other people are something that gradually build and take time, many boys and young men today are dysfunctional in relationships. They especially lack social skills with women because they have lost the ability to build such relationships and relate in meaningful ways. They always need stimulation.

That can be true for others as well. I would say many Christians suffer from an addiction to stimulation. Unless we are stimulated by the messages, music, programs, and technology in a church, we become dissatisfied. We become more demanding and less patient with God’s timing and pace. It affects our view of God and how he works. We become accustomed to everything being immediate or flashy. We never learn the biblical and spiritual practice of waiting on the Lord.

One of the ways Facebook works is that you connect with people by “friending” them. Up until the past twenty years, “friend” was a noun. A friend was someone you knew and liked. When you “friend” someone on Facebook it means you see their posts and they see yours.

Some people talk about how many friends they have on Facebook. The more you have, the more popular you must be. But is that really friendship? If I choose to “friend” someone in Atlanta, George who I have never met or spoken to are we friends?

Is social media helping us come closer together to one another? Is it helping us love one another more? Is it strengthening the expectations we have in relationships, and is it making our relationships better?

Are we less lonely? Less misunderstood? Is there less brokenness because of it? So much of the evidence surrounding social media is that it isn’t fostering satisfying friendship. In fact, many people who spend so much time on Facebook or Instagram can easily become depressed.

Family members – husbands, wives, children, who sit under the same roof - speak to each other through text, email or on Facebook, instead of meeting and talking face to face, and voice to ear?

Maybe you experienced this scenario: you are sitting at a table with someone – a meeting or lunch – and they begin to ignore you to answer their cell phone or text someone. You get tuned out for someone else. Ever feel second rate and undervalued?

We are losing the ability to be present.

One of the things we hear more these days, especially from the younger generation is that we need to be “authentic” and “real”. But I’m not sure living on social media is lending itself to real commitment, real love and authentic friendships. The conversations we have via tweeting, texting, and even email don’t seem to be building our relationships with one another into satisfying “authentic” friendships.

My point isn’t to judge social media. Just about everyone uses it. It has wonderful uses. I use it. Our church uses it. It can be a good thing with great advantages. What I want us to think about is the nature of friendship.

It’s no wonder we find social media attractive because it feeds something that is deeply ingrained in us. God created us in his image, and part of being in the image of God is being created for relationship.

God is one, but exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God does not exist alone. One of the things about the Trinity is that relationship is at the center of God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always existed, and have always existed in a relationship of love, communication, and cooperation.

Relationship comes from God. We who are created in God’s image are not whole when we are alone. God said in the garden, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

We are created to be in relationships. It is part of being human. We are created to know and be known, to love and be loved. This is why loneliness, broken relationships, or loss hurts so badly.

COVID has certainly made relationships harder. We haven’t been able to be with one another. That has caused great distress for many people. I think one of the things the pandemic is reminding us of is that we need people. We need friends, true friends. We need to come together and gather and talk and share. A text here and there doesn’t cut it.

And so, we search for friendships.

Social media allows us to connect, but we need more than just the ability to connect. We need relationship. We need physical contact. We need to see our faces so that we can receive the smiles and wipe away tears. We need hugs and handshakes.

There is a lot of complexity in relationships. There is give and take, good and bad, things that are enjoyable and things that are painful. Real, strong, healthy relationships take time. They can’t always be “speeded up” or hurried. Just accumulating lots of people, labeling them as friends, runs the danger of treating people as means to be used for our own purposes.

I can control a computer screen, but a lot of the complexity of relationships never shows up on the screen. Relationships take love, understanding and intimacy. They take time and growth. Those don’t always come on a screen.

When Nancy and I became interested in each other some years ago, and she became aware of my good looks, engaging personality and financial wealth, she went to Scotland to do a 9-month internship in a church there. I was just getting established as a rookie-pastor in Philadelphia.

For 9 long months we were physically apart, and it was cost prohibitive in those days to call on the phone. Remember when you were charged by the distance and time of a phone call?

We carried on our relationship by writing letters to one another. Do you remember letters? When you sat down, took out a piece of paper, and wrote out what you wanted to say and express by hand?

In fact, most of our dating/courting/whatever you want to call it, was done this way. And when the Phil and Nancy story is published someday, if they print our correspondence, it won’t be full of a bunch of syrupy, romantic, starry-eyed stuff. Maybe a little. But mostly, it was day-to-day activities, challenges, and joys. We shared our thoughts, experiences, and lives with each other. We had to wait for the return letter. We couldn’t just hit “send” and it showed up immediately in the inbox. But I suppose the waiting did something.

But we got to know each other that way.

For generations, many people strengthened and developed their relationships from a distance by writing letters.

Try that sometime. One of the dangers of all technology is how it has sped up our lives in the name of efficiency. Slow down and handwrite someone dear to you a note or letter.

There is something to be said for having to spend time thinking about what you want to say and taking time to express it in a way that takes into account your own heart and the other person. It isn’t about speed or volume. It’s about authentically communicating with someone to nurture a relationship. That is different than a text or tweet.

Nancy’s father used to write a draft of a letter before he wrote the actual letter. Sometimes it would take him an entire day.

Christian faith is a “one another” faith. Time and time again in the New Testament we read how we live with and toward “one another”. For example, we are to love one another, bear with one another, forgive one another, welcome one another, among other things. It will become harder and harder to live the New Testament lifestyle of “one another” if we aren’t with one another. Many churches have felt that during the pandemic.

Many people had to worship online for a long time. It was kind of innovative at first. But it got old. And people missed being in the sanctuary with others. And some still haven’t gone back because their fire went out from not being with others.

Not being with “one another” leaves out a lot of the messiness of Christian faith and church life, and if you read the New Testament you got to get messy if you are going to participate in the life of following Jesus. It is often quite less than remarkable, and full of problems.

The beauty of churches is that often people who would never know one another come together and live together in a community. The one thing that brings us together is our faith in Christ.

When we create our own circle of friends via social media there is a danger in only seeking out like-minded people. We filter out those who are different from us, and certainly who we don’t like or want to be with.

I think it is good to think about this because our faith is about relationship. And churches are places of relationship; relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and with one another. Healthy churches happen when there are healthy relationships.

The most important relationship, of course, is with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25 says this:

“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.”[2]

To fear the Lord doesn’t mean to be scared of the Lord. To fear the Lord is to hold him in highest honor. It is to understand his place and authority. It is to give him his proper place in our lives. It is to worship him and want to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to him.

I love my parents. I always knew they loved me. I felt secure, supported, and accepted by them. But I feared them in the sense that I wanted to please them. As for my father, I knew his place in our family. I knew what would happen if I talked back to my mother, hit my sisters, or slacked on my schoolwork. He loved me but I knew his authority.

To fear the Lord is to respect who God is.

Several times in the Bible we read that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”[3] You want to know how to live then have a proper relationship with God. That’s what God’s friends do.

Furthermore, it says that the Lord makes his covenant known to those who are his friends. That refers to knowing how God works. God brings those who are his friends into his close counsel. He instructs. He guides. He shows us things.

God’s friendship – and yes, there is such a thing as friendship with God – comes by revering the Lord, and honoring him with all our values, actions and choices. Friends trust one another. Friends do things for the other. Friends do what their friends desire. Can God trust you? Does he know you will do what he desires?

Chapters 13-16 in the Gospel of John give us a seat at the table on the night before Jesus was crucified. We are allowed into the conversation he had with his disciples. It is sometimes called “The Upper Room Discourse.” John is the only one who give us this intimate conversation Jesus has with the twelve.

Jesus’s main word that night was a new commandment: love one another, just as I have loved you. But he also told them he would be leaving them. He spoke of him sending the Counselor – the Holy Spirit – to help them. He told them to serve one another by washing one another’s feet. He said he was the vine and they were the branches and they were to keep connected to him. He said he was the way to the Father.

But he also told them that night that they were his friends. Jesus friended the disciples.

Jesus is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. He is our King. But have you ever understood Jesus as your friend?

He told the twelve that this friendship takes place when they do what he commands. He said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

Jesus speaks to his friends fills them in on the Father’s business.

For Jesus, friendship is not a button to push on a computer screen. It is something to be lived. And at its core is love.

That’s one of the conditions Jesus set for friendship with him. He said it involved loving one another. He defined the quality of that love by the way Jesus has loved us. Think of Jesus’ love: it was a sacrificial love, a love that spent and gave its life. This is why he says that no one has a greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus shows the effect that love has on relationships. It creates friendships. Friendships require the sharing of goals and purposes. Friendship involves intimacy and trust.

To love the way Jesus wants me to love will require more than sitting at a computer, or holding an iphone in my hand. It will require touch, personal investment, time, listening, humility, and self-lessness.

For Jesus, “Love is an event more than a word.” [4] Love happens. It is action not just talk. It is demonstrated not described. It is lived.

The heart of Christianity is that the invisible God became visible in the flesh and blood real person of Jesus Christ. You know, God didn’t come electronically, or just as information. Ever since he appeared on this earth his followers have tried to enflesh his presence in the world to others through love, and in real, everyday actions of grace, reconciliation, and mercy.

I don’t know if Jesus would even do Facebook. But he certainly wants some friends representing him on this earth. Jesus’ friends love one another – those that are hard to love and those that are easy to love. His friends do his will. Jesus’ friends bear fruit for him. We are marked by his love.

Let Jesus friend you. And let’s friend him right back.

Prayer: Loving God, you don’t call us servants but friends. You want to be in our lives and our lives in you. You want to speak to us, live among us, and lead us.

You have said that love is the key to that so help us to love you and one another.

Thank you that you call us friends. Amen.

[1] The psychologist is Philip Zimbardo. This is from the article, “The Isolated Generation”, by Eric Reed, Nov. 7, 2011 at [2] Psalm 25:14 (NRSV and ESV) [3] Proverbs 1:7 [4] Earl Palmer, The Book That John Wrote, p.134

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