This past Sunday I delivered part two of our Community series, again tackling the problem of loneliness. Today many of us have no “true” friends we can call on. Even in this day when we have hundreds and some have thousands of “friends” on social media, we still feel more lonely than ever.
We began by pondering these questions:
- What’s the difference between a social media friend and an “in real life” friend?
- Why do we tend to have so many social media friends and so few real life friends?
- Can we make our social media friends just as close as our real life friends?
Robin Dunbar, an Oxford evolutionary psychologist says the average maximum number of “stable relationships people are cognitively able to maintain at once” is 150. So the range is around 100-250.
Of course these 150 relationships also have their own concentric levels of relationship. Just like in social media world, though we may have 1,000 friends, the likelihood is true that few of those are bestfriends, and even fewer what we would call, “close friends.”
Dunbar developed a circle map of our typical relationship levels to display this idea:
The image explained:
“The innermost layer of 1.5 is [the most intimate]; your romantic relationships.
The next layer of five is your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships.
The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. We trust them enough to leave our children with them.
50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people.
The 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.”
What really limits our friendship capacity? Time.
The truth is we have limited time, and some of us more than others. And it takes time to invest in relationships to make them meaningful. We have the responsibility of how we invest our time.Tweet
So how much time does it generally require for that acquaintance to become a best friend?
“It takes about 200 hours of investment in the space of a few months to move a stranger into being a good friend.”
Jesus and His Friends
So, if Jesus is our example then let’s look at His life from acquaintances to His closest friendships.
When Jesus first begins His ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist, He calls a few guys to “follow me.”
These first followers are an unnamed disciple of John, Andrew, Andrew’s brother Simon Peter, Philip, and Philip finds Nathaniel inviting Him to come along on the journey to follow the “One whom Moses spoke about.”
So there are then 5 disciples, new acquaintances or new followers of Jesus. These 5 follow Him to the wedding at Cana of Galilee. No doubt Jesus made other acquaintances at the wedding.
And when He leaves the text just says:
After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.
Only His original 5 followers, HIs mother, and His brothers, went with Him from the wedding.
Later on He chose two others, John and His brother, James, the sons of Zebedee. Then a little further Ha calls a few others, Matthew, another James, Thaddeus, Simon, and then Judas.
Still we are not yet told they are more than simply followers of Jesus. He doesn’t consider them disciples, until He prays about it.
Luke 6:12 tells us Jesus spent all night praying to God about who His disciples were to be. And the next day He called the 12 by name to be His disciples.
Along the way, though, Jesus had others begin to follow Him. Shortly before His time in prayer was when He and His followers were walking through the grain fields plucking heads of grain that outraged the Pharisees. Remember we figured out that Jesus either had Pharisees following Him at the time or “workers” for them, hence how they knew and then called Him out for allowing His followers to break this supposed Sabbath Law.
Luke 6:17 also speaks to Him having other followers at this time as it tells us after His choosing of His disciples…
When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds.
Let this be a little wisdom for us, just because someone is following you, it doesn’t mean they should be your friend.
Just because someone is following you, it doesn’t mean they should be your friend.Tweet
So often, especially in social media world, we think we have to “friend” anyone that follows us or sends us a request. But would you do the same in real life?
The offer of friendship is an offer to do life together…especially when we look at these persons being close friends.
Have you prayed about finding/gaining friends? What if, again, we did this before accepting friend requests? Before inviting that “acquaintance” over?
Jesus’s Friends Circle
There’s honestly no great idea on how many folks followed Jesus at the various stages of His ministry. We get a number here and there of some events, such as the feeding of the five thousand, but we don’t know how His entire ministry fits into the Dunbar’s circles.
But if I were to make a guess, I would put it something like this:
Acquaintances of course would be those fringe followers, 500 or so.
Friends might would then be 150 or so of those folks. They weren’t enemies and maybe He and they had some light conversation from time to time.
The next circle is the 50. What Dunbar would call “Good Friends.” This is the group you might have a barbecue with remember?
Later in Jesus’s time, He sends out “72 disciples” to do ministry in the surrounding towns and places He had planned to visit.
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.
For Jesus, these may have been good friends because there is no doubt He would only send those whom He could trust to do the works He needed them to do.
These would have not only been doing miraculous works, but in whose name they were doing them is what mattered. He sent them to the places He’d planned to go, in other words, they were going and making a name further for Him preparing the fields for harvest.
They were on Team Jesus!
Don’t you want others on your team? Friends that can help you get to where you desire to go in life? Friends that though you may not be the closest, they’ll speak a good word for you. They can be relied upon from time to time to lend you a hand.
These are the ones I’d say we hope to have in community with us. A village of people that we can rely on and depend upon in times of need. They may not all be those you’d share every secret with, but they might be those you’d call to lend something to you. They may be close enough for you to know if they went missing, and you’d need to call and check up on from time to time, and know they’d do the same for you.
No Longer Servants
There is a time when our relationships change, it grows deeper, and usually that may be after an experience you have together. Jesus marks such a time with His 12 disciples…those that had no doubt been with Him the most time and experienced the most ministry alongside Him.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
These are people He can trust with all His Words.
How does it feel to have someone whom you may not have been extremely tight with in your eyes, tell you, “hey, thanks for being a good friend.”
I believe that is what we see here. Maybe the disciples had only seen their roles with Jesus as fellow workers, slaves, as they sought to learn from Him as their Master and Teacher. But then Jesus tells them, “You are not my slaves, or my pupils, but you are my friends.”
They may have already been in Jesus’s “best friend” zone, but they hadn’t considered such a thing most likely. But Jesus makes it clear here, and I can only imagine how it may have touched them to hear Him say this.
Make sure that those whom you think are good friends to you know it for themselves. Share how they affect your life positively. I think it’s extremely encouraging to be told how I’ve impacted a friend’s life for good.
The Inner Circle
Still there is one more level, other than family, that we need to look at when it comes to friendships. These are your closest friends. They are as close to blood family as it gets without them being related.
These are the ones Dunbar says are, “your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. They are the ones who will drop everything to support us when our world falls apart.”
These are truly the friendships we dream of having. And I dare say these are the ones we lack the most when we feel we are “all alone” and have “no one that understands.”
We see these displayed in Jesus’s life as well. We call them His inner circle. These are Peter, James, and John.
They were with Him for the transfiguration
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
They were the only ones invited with Him into the home of Jairus when Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead.
And they were the three that accompanied Him in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion, where He prayed for God to give another way.
These were His ride or die guys. They were there for the intimate miracles and for the worst of times for Jesus.
We need a few relationships just like these. When we are hurting we need people we can call to come alongside us and just listen to our pain without judgment. Not people to fix our problems, but just love us through them. People that enjoy our good times and are there for our bad times, and us for them as well.
When we are hurting we need people we can call to come alongside us and just listen to our pain without judgment. Not people to fix our problems, but just love us through them.Tweet
As we have been talking about community these past few weeks I want to point out that we need friends in our community. We are not created to be alone. God has friendships out there that are just what we need. But, as we have been talking about and learning as well, we need to be intentional to find and make them.
Even in looking at Jesus’s life, we see He picked His own people, and then made selections of the acquaintances that followed Him. He even chose 3 of His best friends to be His closest friends. It is ok for you to do the same.
Remember, pray for friendships, pray about those you let speak into your life and for those that may need you to speak into their lives. Don’t accept just anyone, pray about them. Pray for community.
You Are Christ’s Friends
Jesus wants you as His friend. Too often we may look at our relationship with Jesus as a Master/slave relationship. But I believe Jesus wants more than that for us.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Are you Christ’s friend? He says that if you are, you’ll do what He has commanded, and you will love one another. He has confided in us His Word and His love to share with the world. He chose us, we didn’t choose Him.
And He has work for us to do with Him, He wants us to be His ride or die people. Are you?
Here’s a couple extra thoughts that didn’t make it into the message but I think are important reminders from Dunbar.
“Losing and gaining (friends) is largely a consequence of who you’re exposed to.”
“Don’t be fazed by loss of friends, because it’s an opportunity to go off and make new friends, which may turn out to be even better.”