The show is set in “simpler” times—before the ubiquity of cell phones and the Internet, when people spent time together without the constant distraction of handheld screens and incessant app notifications. The six friends do mundane things like hanging out in a coffee shop and playing football on Thanksgiving. They engage with each other in the real world, not virtual or mediated realities. This highlights something the current generation desperately needs: true human interaction. We need more than just personal interaction, though, we need friends.
A recent survey shows that adults, especially men, have fewer friends than adults did in the era which birthed Friends. Now, ten percent of men and fifteen percent of women claim to have no close friends at all. This is also a problem with Millennials, with three out of ten claiming they always or often feel lonely, and nearly one in five claiming to have no friends at all. As we’ve noted in previous articles loneliness is not simply a problem; it is a modern epidemic. Social media is intended to make personal connections easier, yet it is making us lonelier instead. Having friends does more than eliminate loneliness, however. There are many benefits of friendship, such as increased happiness and reduced stress, improved confidence and self-worth, and encouragement for positive lifestyle changes.
The positives of friendship and dangers of loneliness should be all the more evident to Christians. In the creation account, before sin had entered God’s bountiful world, God nevertheless proclaimed there was something that was not good: for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). When Jesus began his ministry, he assembled a group of men who would not only be his most intimate followers, but also his friends (John 15:15). He also taught that there is no greater show of love than “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Prior to his arrest, Jesus lamented that his friends fell asleep and left him alone in his time of distress (Mark 14:37). And no one has ever felt a loneliness greater than Jesus, who was forsaken even by God the Father, while bearing our sins on the cross (Matt. 27:46).
The Bible also teaches us of the wisdom of having faithful friends:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. —Proverbs 17:7
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. —Proverbs 27:17
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not
quickly broken. —Ecclesiastes 4:12
As Christians, we have access to friendship and community through the Church. From the beginning, the Church provided help to believers in need and encouraged those facing trials and persecution for their faith. While the Church is certainly more than just a gathering of friends, it provides us an assembly of people who can celebrate with us during the good times and mourn with us during the bad. We can be a beacon of light for those struggling with loneliness and in need of friends.
The chorus of Friends’ iconic theme perfectly sums up the role of friends in our lives:
I’ll be there for you (Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you (‘Cause you’re there for me too)
When you are in trouble or need a shoulder to cry on, a casual social media connection from across the country most likely won’t be there for you. We need a local community of friends and family. Virtual connections cannot replace true, personal relationships, which the popularity of Friends amongst the current generation illustrates. Like most television shows and movies, there are certainly aspects of the show that should concern Christians, such as the casual attitude about sex. While we definitely must be mindful of the messages we are subconsciously absorbing from various media sources, we also witness the basic things that everyone needs, believer and non-believer alike: compassion, confrontation, encouragement, truth, and faithfulness. Through Friends, we see the importance of having a committed group of friends who will be there for us through the ups and downs of life. How much more should we as Christians be the sort of friends who image the love and truth of Jesus to those in our own lives?
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