One of my grandson’s first jobs was for a large department store chain. His job title was a “parcel,” which even after consulting dictionary.com, I am not sure of the Genesis of that job title.
His job was to retrieve shopping carts, help people load their purchases and just about everything else he was asked to do. One day while dropping him off for work, he recognized an individual in the parking lot and his grandmother asked, as grandmothers are want to do, if the person was a friend. My grandson responded no, he was a coworker. In later discussion, my grandson indicated it was not a matter of like or dislike, he was simply not a friend. His connection to him was as a result of employment.
I couldn’t help but to think such a distinction was rare in a time when the term “friend” is often misused and certainly over used. I have heard people use the word friend when acquaintance would be an overstatement of their actual relationship. I could also point out the use of the word by the Facebook folks, which at best is highly suspect. To be transparent, I am most likely one of the worst clients on Facebook. In my defense I have said I don’t have a face for Facebook, but one of my daughters and her husband didn’t want me to lag behind in the electronic age.
I am not complaining about a lack of friends. But the fact that I received a friend request from a person a full three weeks after her death is more than problematic. While I know that Facebook has a broad reach, I am pretty sure it doesn’t follow on to one’s eternal reward. I have seen pictures of grandchildren I may not have seen otherwise, but the whole idea that social media brings people closer is not always true. Certainly there are several well publicized cases of violence that include murder; it could well be called “antisocial” media. My point is that words have meaning and the word friend does have a definition, such as a person attached to another by feeling of affection or personal regard.
There are several pictures of friends and friendships in the Bible, one of the most interesting goes back to the time of Exodus. Moses had been up on the mountain to receive what we call the Ten Commandments. When he came back down, he discovered the people had become tired of waiting on God and made an idol of a golden calf. As an aside, it’s interesting the things we take as idols when we give up on or refuse God.
You should read Exodus 32 if you would like the details, but let’s just say things became pretty messy after that. In chapter 33 is the picture I had mentioned earlier: A “tent of meeting” had been set up outside the camp. It was the place Moses would meet with God and when he went out to the tent all the people stood outside of their tents and watched.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Exodus 33:11(a) NIV. A more current application may be after the death of Christ on the cross, the curtain in the temple that separated people from God was ripped from top to bottom enabling people to speak to God as a man speaks to his friend. I can’t help but wonder how often we take advantage of that opportunity.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.