Summary: Facebook is for connecting with "friends," but the friends we have on Facebook are rarely friends at all, at least not the type that change our lives.
How many of you are on Facebook? How many know what it is, but are not on it? How many know nothing about it? What planet have you been living on? Facebook is a website that was launched in February of 2004. It was created by some college students led by a young man named Mark Zuckerburg, who is now the 16th richest person in the world with a net worth of 33.4 billion dollars. Basically, Facebook was meant to be a directory for Harvard students. The name comes from the school’s annual directory. It had everyone’s picture from the school and it was unofficially called “the face book.” It had head shots of everyone and it helped people to put a name with a face. However, it didn’t just stay at the school. In eleven years it has exploded. Today, there are over 1.49 billion users of Facebook.
The stated purpose of Facebook is to share and connect with the people in your life, and we do that by becoming “friends” with people on Facebook. If I want to become friends with someone I have to send a friend request. The person can decide to accept my friend request or not. On Facebook, we get to choose our friends. We can “decline” someone who wants to be our friend, and I have declined friend requests when I am not sure who the person is. But, if I know the person, I accept their friend request. That’s netted me 1,275 “friends” on Facebook. That’s my “network,” or “community,” and they can write on my wall, and I can write on their wall, and we can keep up with what’s going on in each other’s life…like I can really keep up with what’s happening in 1,275 people’s lives! Here’s the funny thing: I’ve probably never met 1/3 of the people who are my friends.
I’m never going to see all those Facebook friends I have “in person”. If I’m sick, they’re not coming to visit me. If I need money to help pay a bill, they wouldn’t be likely to help. If I was stranded on a highway at night, most of them are not coming to get me. They don’t really know me. They don’t know what I struggle with. They might not even LIKE me. On Facebook, they’re my friends. Probably nice people, but they’re not really my friends. They’re like the lady who telephoned a friend to ask how she was feeling.
“Terrible,” came the reply over the phone, “my head’s splitting and my back and legs are killing me. The house is a mess, and the kids are simply driving me crazy.”
Very sympathetically the caller said, “Listen, go and lie down, I’ll come over right away and cook lunch for you, clean up the house, and take care of the children while you get some rest. By the way, how is your husband Sam?”
“Sam?” the complaining housewife gasped. “My husband’s name isn’t Sam.”
“Oh dear,” exclaimed the first woman, “I must have dialed the wrong number.”
There was a long pause. “Does that mean you’re not coming over?”
We long for genuine relationships, not the sanitized, happy-is-life versions we get on Facebook. We long to be “connected” to people who know us and love us. It’s the way we were created. Very early in the Bible it says that Adam was created and something was missing. God looked and said, “It’s not good for man to be alone, I must create a helper that must be suitable for him,” and God created Eve. So, from the very beginning God created human beings for community. We’re not designed to be happy and contented on our own.
We find community in different places—at work, in the Rotary Club, at the country club, in the bridge club, in our families. But, there’s something different about the community of the church—or, at least there should be! We are God’s people—this moment and every moment. What makes the church different from the other places of community is that we are a community of believers, bound eternally through the power of the Holy Spirit with every person, everywhere who has put faith in Jesus Christ. We believe it is in Jesus Christ that we find hope, motivation and encouragement.
I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer characterized this idea in his book Life Together. Bonhoeffer says, “The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”