I HAVE 420 Facebook friends. I didn’t know that I know 420 people.
For people not familiar with Facebook, when you sign up, you can send notices to anyone really that you’d like to be their “friend.”
Or, people can send you a request to be their “friend.” If you both agree, then you are Facebook friends. So, in one way or another I have gone through that ritual 420 times.
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NOW, SOME of my Facebook “friends” are not really friends. Some of them I have never met. Jim is an attorney in New Orleans. A mutual friend suggested we be Facebook friends. He and I have never even had a conversation — spoken or written.
There’s Philip in New Jersey. He’s a Presbyterian pastor and rides bicycles. We’re “friends.” We have never met, but we have texted a few times.
Then there’s Lisa. Yes, this Lisa. We are also Facebook “friends.” We’ve known each other for 34 years, been married for nearly 33 of those. We know each other’s thoughts. We know each other’s secrets. We know each other’s joys and fears. Yet, Facebook ranks us all the same — friends.
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IN JOHN 15, Jesus calls the disciples “friends.” That is such an intimate, caring word. What is a friend, anyway? Here are some responses:
■ A friend is someone who tells you the truth It’s not easy to tell the truth when the truth is harsh. There are moments when a friend needs to say what needs to be said, and sometimes there’s no way to sugar coat things. A true friend tells the truth no matter how hard it is because they don’t want to hide things from you. A true friend is in it for the long haul, and they’re willing to work through problems in a friendship.
■ A friend is loyal A friend has your back. When your friend needs you, you’ll be there.
■ A friend is there when you need them When you’re going through a hard time or having an emotional crisis, a friend will be there and show you that you’re not alone.
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THESE THREE descriptions of a friend sound a lot like Jesus. He bears our griefs. He listens. He is there for us when we need him, loyal to a fault, and always stands for (in fact is) truth.
What a friend we have in Jesus. As much as I like that song, when you read it, Jesus is more like a therapist than friend. We dump our trials and temptations. We share our sorrows. We bear pain because we don’t share it with Jesus.
It’s a one-way relationship.
JESUS IS A GREAT FRIEND to us for all those reasons. But then we must address the reverse:
Are we really a friend to Jesus? Are we willing to hear his truth? Do we reveal who we really are to him? And what about loyalty? Jesus is available to us; are we available to Jesus?
If your side of the Jesus/you friendship equation is lacking, what do you do?
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IN MARCH 2018, social scientist Jeffrey Hall published a study titled “How Many Hours Does It Take To Make a Friend?” He sorts friendship into four categories. How would you categorize your relationship with Jesus — acquaintance, casual friend, friend, or close/best friend.
According to Hall, it takes 40 to 60 hours of time spent together for relationship to move from acquaintance to casual friend. Eighty to 100 hours to be more than casual friends, and over 200 hours of relationship to become close/best friends.
Hall’s finding suggests friendship is the payoff on an investment of time and effort. Jesus calls us friend because he has invested time and effort into our relationship.
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I WONDER WHAT Hall’s work tells us about the reciprocal friendship — our friendship with Jesus. If it takes many hours of dedicated, connectional time to build a good friendship, how much time should we spend in prayer, Bible study, and worship to build a vibrant spiritual life?
Do we want to be close friends with Jesus or is a casual relationship good enough?
Sunday morning worship is just over an hour each week, two if you attend Sunday school. Two hours a week, two important hours — but still, our souls require more spiritual nourishment, more time spent resting in the presence of the Holy.
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WHAT CAN WE DO to demonstrate our desire to be closer to God? How can we follow Jesus more faithfully? Love.
Love Jesus with all our heart and love one another.
Jesus said, you are my friends if you love. Love fully. Not halfheartedly. Not occasionally. Not only when it benefits us. We love Jesus as he loves us, fully and fiercely and unselfishly.
But Jesus also says a commitment to our friendship is to love others the way he loves us. Love with a spirit of forgiveness. Love with compassion. Love with encouragement.
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JESUS, OUR FRIEND, knows our sins, our fears, and our weaknesses — and he loves us still.
He loves us better than we love ourselves.
Let us abide in his love and let us strive to share that love with one another. It takes time and energy and attention to love well, but it will be worth it, when we hear him call us friends. Amen.