By: Louie Bailey
It all started a few years ago when I went to my 40th high school reunion in Decatur, Georgia. About the same time, the church youth group from my home church, Oakhurst Baptist in Decatur, began having annual or semi-annual get-togethers of people involved in the youth group while a certain music minister served the church. Since I have lived away from the Atlanta area for quite awhile, I had lost touch with many of my friends and acquaintances. After both of these reunions, individuals began to keep in touch with each other like they had not done before through email and other ways.
Last summer, at the prodding of my sons, Evan and Sean, I became a Facebook member, and that has indeed been a revelation for me. It is always a thrill to get an invitation to be someone’s friend (like being in elementary school—“Do you want to be my friend?”), and it is very special indeed to ask someone to be your friend and have them accept. This may play into my basic insecurity (“Why would anyone want to be my friend?”) but I am reminded of a scripture verse I learned as a child: “If you want to have friends, you must be friendly and a friend sticks closer than a brother or sister.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Friendship is a very important part of life, and having friends and being in relationship with others is necessary to our survival and spiritual formation, I believe. There are 49 verses with the word “friend” in the Bible. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother or sister is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) Jesus said, “I have called you friend.” One of the great Christian hymns is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
I have always considered myself to be a “people person,” interested in others and what makes them tick. It has been a moving experience for me to share the joys and sorrows of those I call friend, from children and teenagers to colleagues from various communities of which I am a part, and friends throughout the world. In addition to former school and church friends, I have heard from youth and adults in the church I served while in seminary as well as my first full-time church, and have been able to somewhat keep up with their lives. I see this as a great gift from God. We should never take friendship lightly, but need to treat others with great respect and love. We certainly don’t have to agree with everyone, but we need to extend the hand of friendship to all.
Do you have friends that have meant a lot to you? Please feel free to share your “friendly” experiences.