By Jim Newman
How many friends do you have? This is not a contest by the way, and I’m not talking about the Facebook variety, but I mean real friends – friends who really know you and want you to know them; friends who really care about you and are concerned about what’s going on in your life. You know, the kind of friends Carole King sang about back in the 1970s; the ones who you can call “when you’re down and troubled and need some love and care, when nothing, nothing is going right, … and they’ll be there!” We all have acquaintances and maybe some casual friends, but how many really close friends do you have, like the one she sang about? Those types of friends are rare, but when you find one you are truly blessed! Unfortunately, there seems to be more and more people who feel they don’t have friends and don’t know where to find one.
With the advent of the smart phone and the phenomenal growth of social media today, especially Facebook, one might think that everybody has all the friends they could ever want! (Some claim to have “friends” that number in the hundreds). It’s a pretty common sight these days to see people walking down the sidewalk looking down at their phones and checking a post, or sending out a tweet, but oblivious to the people around them. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and seen a table full of people, all of them on their phones, with no one actually talking to each other? Something doesn’t seem right here.
Eric Metaxas of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview says that, “We have all these ‘friends,’ yet there is in our country what some have called a ‘Pandemic of Loneliness.’ We have never been more ‘connected’ as Americans – and never have we felt lonelier.” And its not just here in our country. John Stonestreet, also from the Colson Center, reported that in Britain they have established a “minister of loneliness” to combat a serious and growing health problem… loneliness! “All the lonely people. Where do they all come from?” (“Eleanor Rigby” – Beatles).
Maybe we should have a “minister of loneliness” on our school campuses to look out for and reach out to the students who are feeling alone, isolated and without friends. Maybe you could be that person as a student, or teacher. I know many of you are already. We could even use more “ministers of loneliness” in our churches. There are some lonely people there, too; people who need a phone call, a visit, a meal, a friend!
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13). Jesus did that for us on the Cross when he died in our place, for our sins. He loved us that much! Not many of us will ever be called upon to die for a friend, but yet, the key to any real friendship is to be willing to die to yourself (your comfort zone, your schedule, your plans) so that you might be a friend to those who are lonely and in need of a friend.
The old hymn proclaims, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” For sure, we can always call out his name and he’ll be there. (He is, in fact, already there, for he said he would never leave us or forsake us!) But people also need a human friend that they can reach out to who will sometimes just “be there!” They need “God in human skin” as someone once said. He wants to use you to represent him. “You’ve got a friend,” now be a friend to others!
Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected].
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.