I suppose we all define friendships differently, but today; I want to shine a light on what causes us to call someone a “friend.” Some of us like to announce to others we have over five million Facebook friends. Really? Are you friends simply because someone follows you online, tweets about you, or shares your posts? Are you friends because you know how to get in touch? Maybe.

Real friendships, at least to my way of thinking, require more than a fan base. Real friends may not even agree with your cause, but they agree with you. They believe you have a right to your opinion and your sense of expression. They know you might not always agree with each other, but they remember all the times you showed up just when they needed help. They recall the funny stories when you played together, traveled together, or simply shared a good meal. They know you. They delight in the person you are because they know the truth of you. They know you deserve a chance to try again, a way to be forgiven, an opportunity to grow and become everything you were meant to be. Real friends know the real you and love you anyway.

In a world where we live behind computer screens, send out messages that we might never deliver in person, and join groups we don’t particularly care about, we might have to reexamine what it means to be friends.

I still think friendships are built on shared experiences, give and take, and laughing and weeping together. Friendships are complex and gentle, unconditional and forbearing. The best friends are those who allow you to be yourself, trust you when you make a mess of things, and look for you to move ahead despite occasional setbacks. These are the people who pray for your well-being even if you don’t know they are doing it. They remind you who you are when you feel stuck in a web of uncertainty. They pay for dinner when they know you are short, and they never criticize your spirit.

Jesus had friends and followers. He had people who showed up looking for whatever He could do for them. He had those who might have considered themselves His friends, but He also had his inner circle, His trusted allies, the ones He turned to no matter what else was happening. These were the people He believed God had given Him to help Him through the difficulties of life. These were the people who tried hard to know Him and learn from Him. Did they question Him? Of course! Did they desert Him in His time of need? It appears they did! Did they love Him to the very end? Absolutely!

Your friends may make mistakes that cause you to wonder what could have motivated them. They might disappoint you, move away, desert you and question you. They might also show up when you’re in the hospital and sit for hours by your bedside. They might send you money without even asking if you need it. They might open a door that gives you a new possibility to keep moving forward. It’s a good chance that none of these friends are on FaceBook. It’s a good chance, that some of these friends are people you have not been in contact with for years, but you know, and so do they that you could pick up the phone at any moment, say something like, “I need help,” and they would respond. They would forget the time, the distance, the unforgiveness, or anything else that might have wedged your lives apart, because love is what real friends use as currency, and it never runs out.

As Albert Camus said, “Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

It appears that friends can exist in all manner of degrees, some on FB, some at church or at work, and some few, continually in your heart. To my own dear friends, I want to say, “Thank you for all you do to make a difference in my life. You are truly loved.”