The power of true friendship
While we appear to be more connected than ever, many of us still find it hard to build true, close friendships. According to Pastor Scott Sauls, technological tools like social media can make connection easier — but it’s not often that we take a relationship beyond the connection.
“There is the reality that even though we are more connected than ever, we are also more lonely and isolated than ever.”
“Forbes highlighted one recent study that showed when social media use goes up, depression goes up also, because of all the comparison that happens. Everybody is just presenting the best version of themselves; the effect of that is we don’t get the full reality of somebody’s life.”
“When everybody’s out there presenting the ‘best’ image of themselves, it leads everybody to feel like, ‘Why is my life not that pretty? Why is my experience not that great?'”
“The problem is that nobody’s life is as great as it looks. It creates this lack of reality about really what’s going on in our lives. So the connection is real but it’s not complete. That can lead to loneliness.”
According to Sauls, lingering doubts about the real impact of the Gospel can cause a fear of friction or tension in relationships.
“We don’t believe Jesus loves us enough to be sufficient as the one who loves us. If the love of Christ was something we really believed–that in Christ, we are known and loved all the time, when we’re at our best and when we’re at our worst–we would be a lot more free to receive constructive criticism.”
Sauls shares an example from his personal life,
“When my wife says, ‘You’re forgetting to do something really important to me around the house and that hurts,‘ or ‘You showed up late to our daughter’s volleyball game and you probably apologize for that.’ If I find myself getting defensive, which sometimes I do, I’m really missing an opportunity to believe the Gospel.”
Because of the Gospel there is grace when we make mistakes in relationships, and there is no condemnation for us in Christ. We are encouraged to reach out as Jesus did, through deep, personal friendships, especially with those who have differing backgrounds or perspectives.
“It’s also an opportunity for me to receive correction, to receive input and grow further into Christ, more like Christ–which, of course, makes me better for the people around me. But we fear those opportunities to grow and improve and be sanctified, to use the Christian language.”
“I think it’s because we really don’t believe Jesus loves us, so we’re looking for something else to cover us, like Adam and Eve did when they covered themselves in the Garden; they ran and hid, got defensive and shifted blame. That was a lack of understanding of how loved they were by God, which is what led to sin in the first place.”
Scott Sauls is Senior Minister of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Previously, Scott was a lead and preaching pastor for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he worked alongside Dr. Timothy Keller. Scott has authored two books: Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides and Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.