This Is Us: A Friend Loves At All Times, And A Brother Is Born For Adversity Proverbs 17:17
Two iconic songs from my younger days still resonate in my mind: Paul Simon wrote and sang A Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a deeply thoughtful and moving anthem to friendship and You’ve Got A Friend written by Carole King made famous by James Taylor. The granddaddy in me hears Randy Newman’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me from watching the classic Toy Story with my precious grandkids. Whatever the generation, genre or genetics having a faithful friend crosses time and culture.
Pastor Ed’s weekend’s message on Biblical Friendship began with discussing research conducted by Dr. Robin Dunbar, British anthropologist and the director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. Although, according to Dr. Dunbar, we may have as many as 1500 acquaintances, the famous Dunbar Number holds a person can have meaningful relationships with approximately no more than 150 people at one time since that is the capacity of our brains. We have layers of relationship circles surrounding us; the closer to center (me) the tighter the level of friendship. Dunbar theorizes the next level is around 35 and then 15. As the level of intimacy and closeness increase this number is whittled down to the number 5 when it comes to your best, best, best friends. Pastor Ed mentioned the ultimate number of the most, most, most closest was 1.5 friends. Furthermore, Dunbar holds this numeric progression is unchanged even in this day of social media. You may have thousands of “friends” on Facebook but you only respond to a handful.
If this is true and I have little doubt it is, then how do we as Christ-followers impact our community and the world. There are so many people out there. Even at GateWay we number around two thousand. We do this through the power of the One and the ripples that emanate from layer to layer. Paul Simon sang, “Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.” Jesus stated, I lay my life down for my sheep” and went on to say, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is our bridge over troubled waters. Because He laid His life down for me, starting with our layer of 5, I must with resolution intentionally “lay my life down” through my acts of kindness, truth, and commitment. Within this circle I must promote the cause of doing likewise to others in the next layer of friends. Each person in this next level has concentric circles of relationships surrounding them. Impacting one person who then impacts a person in their circles sends ripples through multiple layers of people not in my layers. We do this intentionally, continually and faithfully “winter, spring, summer or fall” as James Taylor sang and we can move a community. And what if I go outside my circles? Jesus’ parable points to leaving the 99 to find the 1. This would be revolutionary.
Don’t have a circle of 35, 15 or 5 to start? Connect Small Groups at GateWay is a great place to begin.