(This post is my article from the June issue of our church newsletter.)
There is a lot of buzz about the internet phenomenon known as social networking. People with common interests get together on Facebook, My Space, Twitter, etc. to carry on conversations, voice opinions, show off photos, share recipes and do pretty much everything else you do with friends. I’ve heard of long lost friends and family members finding each other on these sites. In fact, a seminary friend I’d lost track of found my blog the other day. (blog: an electronic journal I’m willing to share with the rest of the universe.) I learned how the recent earthquakes affected my friends on Twitter. The biggest difference between these internet friends and my other friends is that I might never meet some of these new friends in person. One of the questions people are asking is “Does our obsession with on-line friendships keep us from forming and/or maintaining close relationships with ‘real’ people?”
When I thought about this question I realized the only thing that makes today’s social networking unique is that it is done electronically. People have been forming long distance friendships, sight unseen, ever since writing was invented.
Paul never met a lot of the people he wrote letters to and yet he considered them beloved friends and family. He spent much of his time concerning himself with them and what they were doing, even though he wouldn’t recognize them if he fell over them in the marketplace. Paul was the “webmaster” of a social network that linked the mostly Gentile church with the church in Jerusalem, with Jesus as the link that brought all these friends together. This first century social network consisting of his letters and the Gospels continue to bring Jesus to life so that we may make and maintain a close relationship with Christ, with God, and with the many friends we gain as members of the Body of Christ– even the ones we’ll never meet.