One of the most interesting words that have emerged in our culture in the last year or so has been the use of the word "fake." The word came out of the last Presidential campaign. The word was used to describe the chaos that was created by the media, in which few seemed to really know what was genuine or fake news. This movement away from reality and truth to the counterfeit and fake is at the heart of a growing spiritual climate going on today. This emergence of the "fake" has begun to transform everything in our world from Presidential elections to our relationships with others and even the Lord Himself.
A generation or so ago, most people had some idea of what was meant by a friend. Back then, when people used the term "friend" they meant something by it. It normally meant you knew someone, spent time with them and had developed a relationship with them that you valued and was worth something to you. Back in the "good old days," friendships were often connected to people you could count on to do something for you or even would be willing to make a sacrifice for you when the going got tough. Real friends tended to stick together and defend one another through the ups and downs of life.
Now days, the entire concept of being a friend has been changed by technology and social networking sites like Facebook. The concept of a friend has moved from something meaningful to something more shallow and trivial. As an example, young people might have 300 friends on Facebook, but spend most of their time alone. Social psychologists have started to study and look at this phenomenon and the initial findings are shocking. In a recent article from Psychology Today entitled, "Social Media, Loneliness, and Anxiety in Young People" author Dr. Graham Davey writes,
It's fair to say that use of social media by young people is not just a consequence of their social anxieties, but causes additional anxieties and stresses that are all grist for the modern day anxiety epidemic.
Articles like the one above are just the tip of the iceberg regarding what our modern culture has done to completely change the idea of relationships with others. It seems as if the whole idea of real friendship with others and the Lord has become something very different than envisioned by the Bible. It seems that people are increasingly lost in a sea of shallow, phony and fake relationships. Sadly, most people don't know that this is even going on until some test emerges that sorts out the real from the fake, in often a very painful way.
From a spiritual perspective, what is happening in the social media world of places like Facebook extends right over to the Church world as well. Millions of people profess they have a relationship or friendship with the Lord and yet the level of commitment to Him seems to be not much more than their commitments to friends on Facebook. American Christianity is being overwhelmed with a nominal, fake form of spirituality that makes it virtually indistinguishable from the world. People often spend little of their time, talents and treasure serving the Lord, but have come to believe they have a "relationship" with the Lord because they attend church once or twice a year at Christmas or Easter and "believe."
Now the Bible is very clear that real friendships and relationships are at that heart of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us was created to have real and meaningful relationships and friendship with the Lord and others. After all, those are the only things that will last forever. Money, technology, careers, entertainment, materialism and all other things that tie up people's time will one day come to an end. Only a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and His people will endure and remain forever. Our Lord defined real friendship in John 15:13-15 when He said,
Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Our Lord Jesus is telling us that the heart of real friendship is sacrificial love for others like He demonstrated on the Cross. Real friendship is sharing hearts and minds with one another in good times and bad. Real and lasting relationships are developed as we share our lives and purposes in the Lord with one another. Without such love, sacrifice and sharing, the Biblical idea of friendships and relationships does not even exist. Without such Biblical qualities, most of the relationships we think we have with others, or even the Lord may be fake. Such relationships may only prove to be an illusion created by our culture that is leading us away from the richness and meaning of life as the Lord intended.
If we take a hard look at all the relationships in our lives, we would have to agree that many of them are not real, Biblical friendships. They may be acquaintances, they may be people we have met, worked with, gone to school with or come to know at some level, but most likely not real friends. Real friends will not be bothered when you wake them up at midnight to talk something out. Real friends will not be upset when we ask them to do something hard. Real friends will not abandon us when misunderstandings come up. Real friends believe the best about us and challenge false statements they have heard. Real friends will be there when everyone else is long gone. Real friends just love us because of who we are, not just because of something we did or do for them. When we consider all these factors, real friends are rare and hard to find. If you wonder about that, just ask Jesus and read about what happened to Him.
The Good News of life is that Jesus came to give His life for us. Our Lord is the Friend we have all been looking for in life. The Lord Jesus Christ is what all relationships are really about. Our Lord and His Cross are the antidote to everything fake and phony in this life. The Lord Jesus came to die for our sin and show us a pattern of relationship with others that would transform us entirely. Our Lord invested eternity in us, so we could invest eternity and real friendships in others. Our Lord is the true test for every relationship we will ever have in this life and the world to come.
Here's to real friendships, now and forever more with the Lord and others.