Even our increasingly secular world places some premium on faithfulnessto a spouse or partner (although it’ll not be phrased in Christanese), and as young Christians we are encouraged to remain faithful to our “future spouse” before we even meet them. But how often do we consider our call to be faithful friends? My guess is not very often.
We also hear a lot, usually from grumpy pundits from the older generation, about how social media is destroying friendship. To a large extent I agree with them. But is social media really to blame? Or is it more that this lack of loyalty comes from not understanding the call for us to be living in genuine community? If so, it’s time I learnt how to use social media to demonstrate unconditional loyalty to my friends.
Only recently has God begin to put friendship on my heart as something he really cares about. I began to consider my track record. Through moving schools and going to university, aware that old friendships naturally drift, I tended to offer little resistance to what I considered an inevitable process, and was content to simply move on. Old friends lost first their place in my diary, then my inbox, then eventually my mind.
In fact half the time I’m not sure I even noticed it happening. In our culture of social-media-managed friendships, it is so easy to become “friends” with someone new, to see what old friends are up to without ever asking them, to see a growing friends list and to assume we’re able to keep in touch with more people. There are lots of things which tell us friends are easily made, easily kept – and a consequence which largely remains unacknowledged is that friends are easily forgotten. Yet my problem goes somewhat deeper than that. I can’t blame Facebook for everything.
Even when I do notice that an old friendship is slipping, I have often tended to blame the other person, angrily saying “they never got in contact with me” or “why should I always have to make the effort?” I even found myself explaining that a particular friend “doesn’t offer me anything anymore”.
It’s probably a good thing I’m not God.
He is overwhelmingly, constantly and unfailingly faithful. I’m not. God is not only faithful because it means He gets good little faithful worshippers back in exchange. The Bible tells us that He is faithful even though we are faithless; his faithfulness to us does not rely on some sort of transaction.
So who am I to judge my friends by how much love, care and commitment they show to me? Who am I to let a friendship slip simply because that person no longer provides, as part of the transaction, present company in the place I am in? I am not suggesting that we can hope to stay in contact with everyone we have ever considered a friend. I am merely aware that my attitude towards old friendships is being challenged. I’m beginning to think that doing something could be really simple.
In the Bible, amongst other things, is a lesson on friendship. Ruth was committed unconditionally to her pal, “where you go I go”. In the age of the smartphone, it’s easier than ever to demonstrate commitment to friends.
I want to be a more faithful, unconditional friend because God is faithful; I want to be that friend in all the arenas where friendship happens, whether that’s in a coffee shop or in cyberspace.