Can a person connect with hundreds or even thousands of people – online or offline – AND also have deep, meaningful relationships?
After looking at the concern that online relationships developed through social media are shallow and have to be taken offline in order to become healthy and meaningful, that’s the question we concluded part 1 of How to Build Online Relationships Like Jesus with.
Jesus’ Relational Pyramids
We have to look no further than Jesus to find a great model of how to live a life that is both deep and wide relationally.
- Jesus spoke to crowds that numbered in the thousands.
- His genuine followers numbered in the hundreds. (Luke 10:1, Acts 1:15)
- Jesus selected 12 to be his disciples.
- Peter, James, and John were his closest friends.
We can picture these four tiers of relationships and the number of people in each tier like pyramid. The closer the relationship, the fewer people who had that kind of relationship with Jesus.
But if we look at the amount of time and attention Jesus gave to each type of relationship, we see the pyramid gets flipped upside down. Jesus gave priority to those he was closest to. He spent the most time with Peter, James, and John. He spent slightly less time with the rest of his disciples. The bible doesn’t give a great deal of detail about Jesus’ broader group of followers, but he must have spent a considerable amount of time with the 70 (recorded in Luke 10) to know and trust them well enough to send them into cities ahead of him.
While Jesus spent considerably less time with the individuals who made up the crowds, it is never the less noteworthy that the gospels are filled with many accounts of Jesus teaching crowds of people and healing people who he may have only encountered that one time.
What Jesus understood is that sometimes God works through a single moment to forever change the course of a person’s life. Jesus probably didn’t have ongoing relationships (at least not on earth) with the woman at the well, the lepers who were healed, the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof, or the man who was possessed by a legion of demons. Yet he still stopped to make time for them as he was passing through. Their lives were forever changed because of it. Who knows how many of these people’s family members’ and friends’ lives were impacted because of their single encounter with Jesus.
Another thing that Jesus was intentional about was having his closest friends and disciples by his side while he interacted with people in the crowds. He didn’t just have them observe either. He engaged them with the people. He told parables to the crowds, followers, disciples and friends, and then explained them to his disciples later. He asked his disciples to feed the 5,000. For Jesus it wasn’t a choice – either the crowd or his followers or his disciples or his close friends, but rather all of the above and progressively more of himself with each closer tier of relationships. Having his disciples participating in his ministry to the crowds was an essential part of Jesus’ discipleship process.
So, how can we apply what we’ve learned about Jesus’ relationships to our online relationships?
We’ll tackle that one next in How to Build Online Relationships Like Jesus (Part 3).
- What have you learned from Jesus’ relationships?
- As you look at your own life, which tier of relationships – crowds, followers, disciples, close friends – do you engage with most naturally? Why do you think that is?
- As you look at the way you spend your time and energy, does it look like the inverted pyramid? If not, where do you need to invest more time?