Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Friend Request

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook. 

As much as you may think those pictures of your children playing with a bunch of cats are cute, I’ve been there and done that. I rarely take up people on their challenges to “repost” a clever saying or a heart-warming story, so I guess I don’t “really love Jesus”.  I’m as patriotic as anyone, but I don’t have to change my Facebook picture (it was hard enough finding one that would fit in that postage stamp-sized box without cutting off my head) to prove that I am proud to be an American.

Recently, I was chastised for failing to visit someone associated with our church in the hospital. When I talked to a family member about it, advising her that I didn’t know about the hospitalization, she replied, “Well, I posted it on Facebook.” Yeah, well, I’ll tweet you in the hospital and we’ll call it even.

I also grow a bit discouraged when I see status postings by people who claim to be Christ-followers, but who use the same foul language or crude humor as the world. I’ve taken to “hiding” most of those “friends”, because I hear enough of that talk in society—I don’t need to be confronted with it on my Facebook page.

And the closer we get to the election this fall, the more I dread reading everyone’s political commentary. If Facebook is any barometer, then Christians are no different than non-Christians in posting mean, ugly and even vulgar things about our national leaders. You can’t tell me that you pray for our President when you are at the same time posting vile and mean-spirited things about him. You won’t convince me that you take the Republican nominee to God’s throne of grace at the same time that you post demeaning and crude statements about him. If I read my Bible correctly, we are to show respect for our leaders, even when we strongly disagree with them.  I know, I know, why am I bringing the Bible into all this.

So by now you probably wonder why I have anything to do with Facebook. And sometimes I ask myself the same thing.  I’ve been tempted to just close my account. I have lots of other ways to waste time—that’s what Words with Friends is for, right?

But there are a few people that I really enjoy keeping up with via Facebook. There’s the guy I go to church with who posts things about his favorite college & pro football teams, and the only hope I have to change his mind (and maybe save his soul!) is through needling him on Facebook. There’s a young man I’ve known since he was born who is now in college, and I like to keep up with what he’s doing.

And lately, God has used Facebook to provide me some tremendous words of encouragement. One was from a man, about my age, who was in a church I pastored in Arkansas. It wasn’t the easiest pastorate, for a lot of reasons—including some of my own making—but he posted one day, “You were my favorite pastor ever.” While I always liked this man and his family (he obviously has good taste), I had no idea he felt that way about me.

And then recently a lady from that same church sent me a “friend request”.  I was surprised, because we weren’t particularly close when I was her pastor. But then she also sent me a direct message, telling me that I had made a difference in her heart and life. She cited a particular conversation we had in which I had provided counsel that she said helped her to come to terms with and resolve some issues she had been dealing with for a long time up to then. I haven't seen her in 15 years, but she shared this word of encouragement with me and blessed my soul. I never knew that I had ministered to her in any significant way, and I am incredibly grateful that she shared that with me.

So I’m going to keep my Facebook account. I won’t post many cute pictures. I won’t often challenge you to post or re-post something to prove you’re a true Christian. And you’ll likely not hear me comment much on politics. But I’ll still give my friend a hard time about his poor choices for sports teams, and I’ll keep up on what friends are doing. And I think I’ll even begin to make a concerted effort to let some people know how they have touched my life. If it blesses them as it has blessed me, they will be blessed indeed.