How many people do you know by face or name? Most of us likely cannot count the faces we have known over the years. Faces come and go. When you are a child, it is easy to think that everyone is your friend. It is fun to talk about the things you are going to do together right up until the last day. Time often reveals that we do not have as many friends as we would have hoped. When you pass on, you will have been very fortunate to have had a group of true friends.
There have been many guesses about how many folks we will meet in our life. The fact is, it is really hard to nail down such a number because there are a lot of variables. What is your profession? Where do you live? How often do you get out of the house? Where do you go when you leave the house? How long will you live? Some folks have said they will meet millions, others a few thousand. How many of these interactions will result in true friendships?
A New Age for Friendships
Today, folks have begun to measure their friendships electronically. They count how many “friends” they have on Facebook, how many twitter followers they have, how many email addresses are in their contacts, how many likes’ they have gotten on their blogs, or how many contacts they have on their cell-phones. This phenomenon has grown quite a bit over the last few years, but it is not new. In 1992, I remember folks sending messages back and forth on the computer. I thought it was neat they even had a friend on the other end who could do that. Now nearly everyone does that and more.
There was a period time in the late 90’s that I ran a computer game site. Back then the message program everyone was using was ICQ. I had hundreds of contacts. We spent a few hours a day together, having conversations about everyday things, and playing games. The internet has really enabled a wide number of people to spend time interacting on a more frequent basis with each other than one typically would with non-internet friends. Today, you can simultaneously listen to or watch a sporting event, movie, or lectureship with someone thousands of miles away, as well as, have a conversation with them and others during these activities.
Would you rather have someone drop by your house unannounced or pop onto your computer and say ”Hi”? Most would prefer the computer interaction. You don’t have to clean your house, dress up, put on makeup, or share your food. You can ignore the person trying to talk to you on the computer or hold 10 conversations all at once if you want to do so. Now with phone apps, internet conversations can be had nearly everywhere on earth. They can be in the living room, garage, rooftop, bathroom, supermarket, car, mall, or woods. No longer do you even need to have ever been in the same room as your “friends”. The dynamic of friendships being a face to face interaction has greatly changed. However, do such activities qualify someone as a true friend though? I would suggest a great number of these “friends” are merely shallow relationships built to satisfy personal need.
Christian Friendships and Worldly Friendships
If you are a Christian consider your relationship with the members of the body of Christ:
• 1Jn 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
• I Cor. 12:20-21 – ‘But now there are many members, but one body. “And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you”’
• 1 John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
• Galatians 4:4-6 – But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
These verses establish Christians are part of a fellowship, members of the same body, children of God, sons of God, and heirs of God. Consider also that marriage is a temporary earthly bond, but the Christian relationship is eternal. How have you structured your interaction with others? With all the talk of electronic interactions, who surrounds your daily activities? Is it a predominantly Christian or worldly network of friends which fills your non-work time?
These next two verses seem to suggest Christians put the world (sinful activities) behind them.
• 1 John 5:4 – For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
• 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
But does this mean the people of the world too (those engaged in sinful activities)? Yes.
• 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Not only are we to separate ourselves from the world, but this is a condition of being Children of God. Our lives should be filled most of all with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We live in the world and must interact with the world to accomplish our daily business. However, our social life is not to be filled with folks who would engage in sinful activities. As a rule, our duty to our brothers and sisters is a priority above those of the world.
• Galatians 6:10 – As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Do we have an obligation to glorify God through kindness and a proper example to the world? Yes! Do we have a duty to share the gospel with the world? Yes!
• Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
However, Paul makes it clear what happens when our priorities are askew:
• I Corinthians 15:33 – “Be not deceived, Bad company corrupts good morals”.
Technologically speaking, when someone is added to your electronic circle of friends, this is called “friending”. “Unfriending” is a modern term used to describe ending communication with someone. It is the equivalent of turning out the lights on your home so no one will think you are there. It is like ignoring your phone, permanently. You basically stop your interaction with someone electronically. There are many reasons this can occur. Most reasons directly relate to the other individual not meeting your personal expectations or needs. Perhaps, they don’t talk enough to you. They don’t respond fast enough. They don’t approve of certain things you do. They won’t engage in various activities you are involved in. Other times, it is because there has been a conflict of some sort. Your feelings were hurt, you got angry, you were insulted, or something of that nature. Sometimes, it is because the person is not a proper influence and is considered “bad company” so you “unfriend” them. In general, these would cover the major areas for “unfriending”.
“Unfriending” is a relatively easy thing to do. You typically don’t ever have to say why you did it. You don’t have to do it face to face. If the “unfriended” person tries to contact you, you can ignore them. Of course, they normally won’t try to contact you because you really weren’t true friends in the first place. You were just another electronic name, most likely without a face. This is the sad reality of the technological era. Friends come and go with the click of a button. True friends do not dismiss one another with the click of a button.
• Job 6:14 – He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Friendships aren’t all about personal needs. Withholding kindness because you didn’t get what you want is pure selfishness. Dismissing a friendship flippantly can cause needless pain to the other party.
• Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
• Proverbs 27:9 – Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.
This means communicate if there are issues. Stand by that person’s side. Don’t stop being a friend based on personal fancy. Being there when someone needs to talk can make a big difference in their life. Ask the person who has lost a loved one, has contemplated suicide, or has thought of leaving a spouse, if a friend being there made a difference.
This is a term that is associated with removing association from a Christian brother or sister. On the face of the terms, it appears that “unfriending” and “disfellowshipping” may be the same. Both involve removing association with someone you could call a “friend”. Why disfellowship? Because when a person refuses to repent of sins in their life, God has said fellowship is to be withdrawn from them.
• 2 Thessalonians 3:6 – Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
There are similarities and differences to “unfriending”. One difference is that disfellowshipping is normally not a decision made as easily as “unfriending”. While folks find it simple to drop association with “friends” electronically, they often refuse to address the issue of Christians who need to be disfellowshipped. They have to deal with these people in the real world. They have to see them face to face. They may run into them at the supermarket and boy would that be uncomfortable. That is not something normally faced with “unfriending”. A second difference is the failure of most “unfrienders” to realize disfellowshipping has nothing to do with their own personal comfort or needs. Disfellowshipping is an act of love to someone to whom you are a true friend.
While they seem to elicit different responses, “unfriending” and “disfellowshipping” aren’t as different as it might appear. Quite frequently, even though the one being disfellowshipped falls under the relationship of brother, sister, child of God, a member of the body, the relationship wasn’t very deep in the first place. They were just another name. They were just another face. You only saw them across the room on Sunday. Perhaps shook their hand a few times. They were never asked out for lunch. You never invited them to your home. You never had a real commitment to them. It’s true, it isn’t comfortable taking action to formally disfellowship them, but you can just continue acting like you always did toward them. That is really not interacting at all, not like a friend, not like a brother or sister, not like an eternal companion. If you just keep acting like you do, they will go away, and there will be no discomfort on your part. They will just fade away in your memory. Just like “unfriending”.
Closing Thoughts on Friendship
Though we see many faces in our lifetime and shake many hands, friends truly care about one another’s welfare. They do so because they love God and they know he first loved them.
• 1 John 4:19 – We love, because he first loved us.
• 1 John 5:2 – Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments.
Being a loving friend involves encouraging one another.
• Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
It involves spending time together.
• Act 2:46-47 – And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
It involves not thinking about self, but being a servant.
• James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
You need to ask yourself, who are your friends? Are they the right friends? Are you their true friend? Do you love them enough to stand by them? Do you love them enough not to drop fellowship with them with a click of a button based on personal fancy? Do you love them enough to disfellowship them if it will save their souls? Make your Christian friends a priority in your life. Put them above the world. Treat them as if they were your own body. Be a Christian friend and have Christian friends for eternity.