Lots of Follows but Few Friends

Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends . . .” – John 15:15

The affection and intimacy Jesus had for his disciples offers a model of friendship that is in contrast to much of what passes for friendship in our time.

While our communications technology has opened up endless possibilities to connect, it remains to be seen if this connectedness fosters authentic friendship.

I must confess that I am a regular user of social media, but I remain of two minds about its value. On the one hand I have reunited with several old friends from my youth on Facebook. And I have made some real friendships through on-line conversations. I have a valued friend in Australia whom I stay in touch with on-line, even though we have spent less than two weeks together in “real life.”

On the other hand I fear that sites like Facebook offer the illusion of friendship without the substance. I have several hundred “friends” on Facebook, but how many are really friends?

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist, set forth a hypothesis that the cognitive limit to the number of people one can comfortably maintain a stable relationship with, because of the size of the human brain, was around 150. Dunbar described it as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

So we all have many more acquaintances than actual friends. “Friends” may like your pictures of puppies and sunsets on Facebook, but real friends turn up for you at the emergency room, and embrace you weeping at the side of a grave. It’s fun to have “friends,” but it is essential to have friends.


Grant us, O God, a gift for making and keeping friends, as Jesus did.

ddRickFloyd2013.jpgAbout the Author
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.