Friday, July 17, 2020

What's in a Friend?

If you're anything like me, you've received your fair share of friend requests on social media from persons who have historically shown no interest in being your actual friend. I'm not talking about persons who have been actively hostile toward you, although that happens, too - sometimes, you get a friend request from someone who made your life absolutely miserable and now, they are like, "Oh, hey..." and you can't help but wonder what kind of life they are remembering, but I'm just talking about persons who had every chance for an entire season of your life to strike up even one conversation and chose not to take it and now want access to your life via social media.

The running joke, of course, is that they have something to sell, which is often true. A quick run through their profile before accepting or rejecting a request can tell you whether they have a dynamic online presence that reflects an actual life or if they are just there to sell goods or services. Taking these few minutes can save you a bunch of annoyance later.

But here's the thing - how do we, as Christians, decide what to do in these moments?

For awhile, I subscribed to the belief that anyone who wanted to be my friend on social media (who I actually knew, of course) could be my friend on social media. I post links to my blogs, theological thoughts, and inspirational ideas about Jesus quite a bit. I could be the person who leads them to a life in Christ, and all I have to do is give them access to a lot of pictures of my dog and a few bad days here and there. Seems like a small price to pay, doesn't it?

Not only that, but rejecting a friend request just felt un-Christian to me for the longest time. Jesus loved everybody; why shouldn't I? I want to believe the best in people. I want to believe that people can change. I want to believe that sometimes, people consider their previous actions to have been wrong and want to atone for that.

In roughly 15 years of social media, I have only ever had one person friend me to say they were wrong about something in our mutual past. One.

So it's probably not that.

Still, I believe the best in people. I believe the best in me. I believe the best in Jesus. And if all that is true, then shouldn't I just friend everybody? Shouldn't I just let all who would, come?

No. And here's why:

What I've come to learn over the years (years of making bad decisions in this regard here and there) is that my life is sacred. It is an example best lived by being intentional about it, not reckless with it. I am not the prophet Isaiah; God has not asked me to walk around naked in order to make His point. Even Jesus often talked about "those you have given me" instead of "the whole world."

That means that I set an example through my life not by posting certain things on social media or making profound comments about life or love, but by being a good steward of my social media. By making it a part of a faithful, righteous life. By letting it be holy by being set apart.

And the truth is that at least half of those persons that I either let in for awhile or were tempted to let in probably muted me the first minute and never saw anything I posted anyway. They certainly never cared to comment on any of my posts.

So it's okay if you want to say "no" to a friend request. It's not un-Christian at all to turn away a "chance for a witness" when that chance profanes your life and makes it something less than God desires it to be. As with all things, pray about it. If God doesn't want you to open your life in that way, then don't. After all, your life is meant to be sacred. Even in a digital age. 

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