As this online social world uses the word “friend” to refer to everyone and anyone with whom we come in contact, I wonder sometimes if we’re losing the meaning of what a “friend” is and I’m concerned what it means for the generations growing up with this in their day-to-day lives.

My concern is partly because “friend” is losing it’s place in our language as a noun. Now we’re using the the word as if it were an action. The verb meaning to make a new “friend” is “befriend.” It’s important to make this distinction because of that key prefix, “be.” As the Resurrection (or Easter) holiday is here, I think about what it means to be a true friend.

It’s frustrating really. Just when I thought the world couldn’t dilute the true meaning of the most critical aspects of Creation any further. Life of the unborn, marriage between one man and one woman, love contrasted to lust… the list goes on. Now, it’s easy to confuse what it really means to BE a “friend.”

I’m not saying people we meet online are not friends nor to stop making friends online (I would say be careful and read this: Online Safety for Social Networking). I’m not even saying to stop using the word “friend” as an action. I realize the message of “friendship” is being recontextualized for this generation and cannot be stopped, but I do want to bring attention to what it really means to BE a friend.

Now, I know not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but His story provides a great frame of reference.

Jesus is the best friend, the truest best friend anyone can have. Whether you believe in Him or not, doesn’t matter. Knowing what He endured for His friends, I don’t think anyone could deny that He was a great friend.

And so, it goes like this: Jesus came down from Heaven, lived here for approximately 30 years, began teaching to lands all around Israel. Then – as we have observed this past week – He began to say goodbye to those friends. So He told them:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15: 11-12

That’s pretty heavy right? It’s like, whoa…. because we all know what’s about to happen.

Then Jesus told His friends what the religious leaders were going to do to them for following Him:

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
John 16:2

They were going to kill Jesus’ followers, but the next night, this is what Jesus prayed to God just before He gave Himself up:

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:22-23

Again, this was just before Jesus gave Himself up. That’s a real friend. He’s basically proclaiming that, even though He knows He’s one with God and could be like, “They’re going beat me and hang me on a cross??! Forget this crap, I’m outta here” He doesn’t.

Even if your opinion is that Jesus is not God and was just a man, realize, Jesus knew His time was up. He could have made a run for it in the middle of the night. So, why did He allow Himself to be apprehended?

To show that He’s a friend – a true friend: someone who is going to go through awesome lengths to show how much they care.

I call so many people that I’ve met online “friends,” but I wonder, what kind of lengths would I go through for them? Would I “endure the cross” for all these people? Truthfully, I’m not so sure I would as much as I’d like to.

Who I’m concerned about are the younger generations growing up that they miss the true meaning of friendship. Are they going to miss the point because the usage of the word is shifted? Maybe, maybe not, but my hope is that anyone who reads this post can forget about all the religious controversy around this holiday and think about the example He provides for true friendship.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • I liked your comments about how social networking has started to redefine our culture’s idea of friendship.

    Luke Gilkerson
    Internet Community Manager
    Covenant Eyes
    “I have made a covenant with my eyes” (Job 31:1)

  • chrispy says:

    Hey there, Luke. Thanks for the compliment. Nice work with Covenant Eyes, btw. I have quite a few friends who use the software to good effect. Keep it up! Feel free to stop by and comment anytime. I’m going to take the “rel=nofollow” off your link.

  • You know, it’s funny how we call people we know only from social networks ‘friends.’ I have dozens of Internet Friends, and I’ve only ever talked to three of them. In English, we just don’t have the accurate words to fully describe our relationships. I was thinking about this as I was doing my devotional this morning. Jesus referred to His relationship with us as more than just ‘friends’:

    “I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.” Jn 15:15 HCSB

    In this instance, Jesus meant something closer than one of your Followers on Twitter. He meant that He was willing to die for any of them now, and He shared all his plans with them. How many people would die for their subscribers on YouTube?

    And, personally, I am of the opinion that if there is no English word for something, we should just continue using the word from the original language (e.g. schadenfreude).

  • chrispy says:

    Thanks for sharing, John. This is exactly what I am getting at. This is where most folks who don’t know Him are missing the point. And sadly, there are also many people who do know Him, but don’t know that they are worthy of His friendship. My hope is that people who don’t know that He wants to be their friend come across this page think twice about the relationship they can have with a loving, personal God.