The big differences are there for all to see. Most of us are acclimatising and adapting to new worlds of homeworking, facemasks, Zoom meetings, social distancing and empty sports stadia, but beneath the surface we need to be aware of the smaller, subtler ways in which life is affected.

One of these was highlighted by a BBC article that was published last week. It explained that our new rhythms and patterns could have some long-term effects on some friendships”. As a result of lockdown, less office working, limited physical gatherings in churches and bans on mass gatherings, it is likely that friendships that previously had been significant to us can deteriorate in a relatively short amount of time. 

It is an interesting piece, and whilst we may not agree with Professor Robin Dunbar’s evolutionary theory, we can all see how lack of contact can impact our connections to others and should cause us to reflect on our relationships. 

God loves relationships. Scripture is full of friendship and encouragement to be great friends. Proverbs tells us that, faithful are the wounds of a friend” (27:6). Jesus beautifully proclaimed that greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The examples of Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi, Barnabas and John Mark show us that friendship matters and encourage us to throw ourselves into relationships.

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But, what does this subtle, under-the-radar change mean for us? How might our awareness of it shape our connections in this season? What is God calling us to do in response? Here are a couple of suggestions shaped around one key idea: intentionality. 

Perhaps the biggest victims to fall to friendship deterioration in this season are friendships of convenience, people we only have interaction with because our life rhythms intersect. But where we are intentional, where we prioritise and take active steps to invest in key relationships, we may find that those friendships don’t just weather the COVID storm, but become deeper, form stronger bonds and grow to be more significant.

First then, let’s be intentional about church. Some churches are finding ways of meeting together in buildings again. Whatever the state of play where you are, community really matters. Church is never perfect, but the beautiful mix of ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and stories is the hope of the world. Don’t just be a passenger during this time. Pray for fellow family members, send them notes of encouragement, seek to invest in old friendships, and be intentional about reaching out and welcoming anyone who is new. 

Second, let’s be intentional about some key friendships. The global, digital world means we have never been more connected. But the quantity of connections does not necessarily equal quality (Knox, P. Story Bearer p. 93). It is impossible to maintain good quality relationships with everybody. Who is God asking you to invest in at this time? If they are not yet Christians, how might a deeper friendship with them help you communicate more of your faith and help them on their journey of faith? At a time when many are more spiritually hungry, your friendship could make the difference in inviting them to know Jesus for themselves.

Jesus said our friendships would define us: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). These times, more than ever, give us an opportunity to show this to the world. Let’s throw ourselves afresh, with intentionality, into the church community and friendship. 

God loves relationships. Scripture is full of friendship and encouragement to be great friends.