For some time I have seen certain kinds of messages showing up on Facebook. I believe that the intention is good and the people mean well, but what might look good on the surface is not so positive in the longer perspective.
What does a person say to a statement like that? One thing is sure – it will not help anyone to find his or her true friends. You will get confirmation from some friends who happened to come across your message on the day it was posted. Apart from making friendship coincidental (if you happened to be on-line that day or not), it also shrinks friendship down to something with a very narrow criterion, dictated by one of the parties.
So, if you are MY friend, I won’t ask you to declare it on social media. Neither will I reply to any of those requests. Friendship is built on more personal, confidential and long-term qualities than the ever-public social media offer.
There are other statements, which sound more like a one-sided declaration. It states the person’s views on political and/or moral issues and finishes off by saying something in the direction of: If you don’t like my views or values, you don’t have to be my friend.
At first sight, it might just look like sharing personal ideals, but it is a declaration of isolation and polarisation. If we all only communicate with people who share our values and ideas and like what we like, what happens to respectful listening? The effect will be that we end up on our small ideological islands, focusing on differences and battling to rule the sea of information between us. Sadly, it seems that some nationalistic and ideological movements are heading at full steam in that direction. But it doesn’t mean that we, as individuals, have to follow.
Even on these issues, Jesus hits the nail on the head by saying:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)
And, in a rather ironic play on words, he was nailed to the cross because he had these views – and died in order to make this kind of holy life available for everyone.
It is easy to like and love those who affirm us, back us, love us and share our values. But God expects more of those who live in this world with the intention of being his presence here. In what way can we be perfect as God is perfect? It is by loving others as he does – whatever their lifestyle or opinions. We listen, communicate and give reasons for our convictions. The outcome is hopefully that we are friends with people with whom we agree on some matters and disagree on others, in the areas of politics, sexuality, faith and even sports.
I like social media. I use them a lot. However, it needs to be repeated that I constantly have to think twice when it comes to considering the consequences of what I write and share. If you share this blogpost, I think you are acting within the parameters of good conduct 😉