Greater love has no-one than this: that He lay down His life for His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:13-15
Before Facebook, we would have had to make several phone calls or send dozens of texts to figure out what all our friends were up to. Social media platforms such as Facebook listed all those updates in one seamless news feed where we know what’s going on with our friends in just a few minutes. It was a new world. Now, we could make new friends and keep up with the old.
But now, I’m not so sure. Now that we have lived with nearly a decade and a half of social media, can we say that our friendships better off? Have we gained more than we’ve lost? While I see nothing wrong with social media, the advent of this technology forces us to work harder at forming healthy habits in friendship.
Let me explain what I mean. If we aren’t careful, we will stretch ourselves too thin, trying to have 100 deep friendships when we are only capable of a few. If we aren’t careful, we’ll end up with many long-distance friendships but no one physically present in our day to day lives to be there for us. If we aren’t careful, we may lose the ability to enjoy and cultivate seasonal friendships and begin demanding that every friendship be a forever one.
So what wisdom does the Bible offer as we seek to build healthy, stable, and satisfying friendships in the age of social media? While there’s much to say, let me share three principles that are helping me
1. Embrace your limits,
2. Have an eternal perspective,
3. Remember your mission.
1. EMBRACE YOUR LIMITS
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. — Proverbs 18:24
Contrary to the message our social media accounts preach, it is not possible to have hundreds of friends. We just don’t have the capacity. We are limited people with a limited amount of relational bandwidth. Even Jesus accepted this human limitation in His time on earth, choosing only twelve apostles and within that twelve only three — Peter, James, and John — who He regularly brought in to His most intimate moments.
What makes us think we can manage more than that?
Before all this technology, most people were forced to embrace the limits that jobs, moves, and children placed on them. The challenge now is that we are no longer forced into limitation, we must choose to limit ourselves. And that’s far more difficult. It takes a lot of self-control and intentionality to build local friendships after you move rather than just keep up with your friends back home via facetime. But if we don’t make these decisions, we’ll miss the real joys and benefits that flesh-and-blood friendships have for us.
2. HAVE AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. — Colossians 3:2
Unlike the world around us, we don’t have to live as if this life is all there is. Jesus has purchased for us a reality of unending fellowship with Himself and with one another. The future of our friendships with all who trust in Christ are secure! There is no more fear of missing out when you keep eternity in mind.
In my own case considering eternity has freed me to allow for seasonal friendships. I have friends from secondary school and university that are precious friends, people who I dearly love! But I no longer keep up with them because I can’t, I don’t have the capacity right now. But I know one day, because of our mutual faith in Jesus, we will be able to sit across the table from one another in the new heavens and new earth and catch up on all we missed in this life! I have eternity with those friends! So even if it is goodbye for now, I know I’m not really losing anything.
3. REMEMBER YOUR MISSION
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Social media can quickly convince you that keeping up with everyone is priority number one. It can create anxiety in us when we aren’t doing a good job managing our many relationships in person and online. But is this our goal in life? To keep up with our social networks? No way! As Christians, we have something so much bigger to live for!
We are ambassadors for Christ, carrying the hope of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
Please don’t misunderstand me here, I think friendships are of paramount importance! But when we try to have too many friends, we end up running around from one leisure meeting to another and can lose the ability to see the lonely neighbour in the house next door or the struggling single mother at the market or shopping mall. And they may be in desperate need of the hope that we have.
So as you interact with your many online and in person – connections, keep these truths in mind. Humbly embrace the limitations in your life and be content with fewer friends. Choose to remain uninformed about all those online friends every now and then so that you have space to notice the people God has placed right in front of you. Set your mind on eternity and remember you have a mission, and it’s something so much bigger than socializing. You are an ambassador carrying the great news that there is a good God who has befriended sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of His son, Jesus! Living for this will not take away from our friendships but will infuse them with more meaning and joy than we thought possible!
Do your friendships bring you joy? Or are you spread too thin with too much time spent on social media? Maybe it’s time to take a break and get with a real-life friend. Maybe it is time to disconnect online and connect with a neighbour, a widow from church, or a brand new friend. Let’s ask ourselves who could use the love of Jesus through your phone call or a face to face meeting?
This article was inspired by a devotional message from a friend.
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