St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church

"Proclaiming Christ Crucified"

Pastor’s Blog: Jesus Doesn’t Unfriend

Pastor’s Blog: Jesus Doesn’t Unfriend

Some of us live and die by who friends or unfriends on Facebook. I am not one of those whose daily existence and sense of well-being is determined by what happens on social media. In fact, I think of social media as a communication tool and nothing more.

You may have heard there are more generations living above ground at one time than at any time before in human history. The oldest among us were born during World War I or just after. They were in their 30s and had lived through another world war before they ever watched television. Most were in their 70s before they owned a computer, began to email, and only because it was a  cheaper way to stay in touch with friends and family. They came of age during the Great Depression. They listened to radios for years and used their imaginations. They were used to 30 minute or longer sermons, and very few did not go to worship regularly. They built and paid for many of the oldest, most beautiful churches. They are becoming fewer daily.

The youngest generation are the children of millennials, those born after 1980, or of older Generation Xers, those born after 1964, or even a few last children of baby boomers, born after 1945. We know how tech savvy the youngest generation are. Technology changes so quickly, and the youngest among us cannot imagine a world without smart phones, tablets, or YouTube. Tell them of a world without television, or without dozens of channels, or without telephones, and it is literally unimaginable to them. When commercial images change every second or so, it is quite hard to hold one’s attention…unless it is a game with rapid image changes.

I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, our website, and email for communication purposes. I think of weekly emails like a newspaper. You scroll through it to find what you want or need to know and ignore the rest. I would rather over communicate than under communicate, and so I repeat information often. An educator friend told me you had to tell people something 23 times before they remembered it. And so I repeat myself often. Doubtless those who got it the first time get irritated by repetition. They should feel happy they learn so quickly (smile). But I find that I remember better those things I repeat. So I call people by name. I keep teaching Crossways Bible Study. I read the ancient words, prayers, and psalms of the Bible and liturgy.

Those who attend Conversations, our weekly sermon study group that meets most Mondays at noon, have heard me say these things about differences in generations. You can’t reach everyone the same all the time, but the older people are able to sort through differences of opinion than most of the very young. They grew up in a time when assimilation meant “e pluribus unum” (from many one) and not today’s emphasis on dissimilation in the culture.

In the 1800s, Joseph Scriven wrote a hymn familiar to those who are older: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear…all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!”

Jesus never unfriends anyone. They walk away, because they don’t like to hear that there is such a thing as objective Truth. It’s so much easier to befriend only those who think like you and who worry endlessly that they might be unfriended by saying or thinking the wrong thing!

I feel sad for people who endlessly “unlike” and “unfriend” those who say something they don’t like. That’s what happens in totalitarian societies. Hitler killed millions. Stalin and Mao killed more millions. And in the United States, since 1973, we have killed more millions than Hitler and Stalin combined one life at a time on abortion tables. Oh, Oh, Oh! Here comes another “unlike!” After all, there is nothing more precious than me getting my way endlessly at whatever cost to everyone or anyone else.

God’s beloved Son Jesus, truly God and truly Human, died on the cross for everyone’s sins. He never unfriends anyone. He prays for them without ceasing. He cries as He watches them walk away into the nothingness and despair masked by online “friends” and whole communities of groupthink.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis pictured hell as an ever expanding gray city where people keep unfriending one another and moving away into endless twilight. “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt


The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 41 years and in May 2017 celebrated the 36th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity ( In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.