It’s ironic that we call it the social network. Visit a person’s Facebook site and it is not unusual to see someone with over 1000 “friends”. I wonder how many friends this person really has.
The Discovery channel website makes an interesting observation. While social networks may make us feel that we know hundreds of people, research is showing that we feel more isolated than ever before. According to a 2006 study in the American Sociological Review, people in the US had fewer friends than they’d had in 20 years. In 1985, the average American claimed to have three close friends but by 2004 the average had dropped to two. And one in four reported having no one to talk to at all.
I remember as a child the older people sitting on my grandmother’s porch talking and visiting. This while all the kids were outside playing. People seemed to know one another then. I am ashamed to admit that after living in my current house 20 years I barely know my next door neighbors. And I think the same evolution has happened to our circle of friends.
It was Longfellow who wrote, “Ah! How good it feels, the hand of an old friend.”
One man said his goal in life was to have eight friends who would attend his funeral without checking their watch to see the time.
How exactly would you describe a close friend?
How many can you truly call your friend?
How many people would call you a friend?
Are we cultivating those friendships?
There are many examples of friends in the Bible. Consider David and Jonathan or Daniel and his three companions. I particularly like the account of Job and his three friends. During his time of need they came and sat with him. For seven days and seven nights they sat with him without even speaking a word. (Job 2:13) They were just there. Sometimes just being there is all we can do, we don’t have to say anything.
In the New Testament we find Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and their friendship with Jesus. Paul had a close friendship with Timothy.
I suspect Barnabas (Acts 4:36) was a friend to many but especially to Paul. Barnabas was an encourager. This is why he was likely a friend to many. Encouraging personalities do not usually lack for friends. Barnabas brought the newly converted Paul to the apostles and stood by him. (Acts 9:27) Barnabas was also an encourager and friend to John Mark in Acts 15: 36-39.
Strong social connections are thought to be one of the most powerful influences on our happiness. Social growth was one of the four areas of growth Jesus experienced. (Luke 2:52)
Proverbs 18:24 reads “A man who has friends must himself be friendly. But there is a friend who sticks closer that a brother.”
So I encourage you to put down the phone and turn off the computer and find someone today with whom you can be a real “friend.”