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Christian Living

Do You Have Friends or Acquaintances?

Strive to Build Meaningful Connections with Those Around You

We know many more people on a casual level then we do in a deeper, more meaningful way. We can distinguish between them as acquaintances versus friends. Think of concentric circles, with yourself in the center. The innermost circle contains your friends, and the next circle out holds all your acquaintances.

We should seek to move people from the status of acquaintance to the position of friend. Here are some areas to consider.

Friends or Acquaintances on Social Media?

Depending on the platform, social media has various designations for those we associate with. This includes friends, followers, and connections. The label of friends, however, is a misnomer. At best our social media associations overflow with acquaintances, but many don’t even rise to that level.

We would be in error to look at our social media numbers and assume these people are all our friends. They are not. At best, only a handful qualify for the status of friendship. This is not to say that true friendship can’t occur online, but it’s rare and fleeting.

Friends or Acquaintances at Work?

Whether we labor with others or function remotely from home, we form connections with those we work with. Some of these relationships rise to the level of friendship, or so it seems. But the true test of these associations occurs when one person changes jobs. Those connections that prevail apart from work are true friendships.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have friends at work. It just means that those friendships are situational, and once the situation changes usually the bond does too.

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Community?

How many people do you know who live around you? Our neighbors should, at the very least, be acquaintances. Turning these acquaintances into friendships is a wise pursuit. We need friends within our community.

Friends or Acquaintances at Church?

For those who regularly attend church services, or are involved in their programs, this is an ideal place to connect with people, especially those with like-minded spiritual perspectives. Yet too often our interactions don’t rise above the acquaintance level to become friends. And I’ve talked with many people who have never even formed acquaintances at church. This may be on them, or it may be the church’s culture. Either way it’s not good.

We should strive to develop meaningful friendships in our spiritual communities. Then we can travel together on our faith journey. As Scripture says, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Family?

A final consideration is our own family. Do our familial relationships qualify as friends or acquaintances? The relatives we only see at rare family gatherings qualify as acquaintances. Yet as we invest in our family, we can turn our biological bonds into meaningful friendships.

What Does the Bible Say?

As you might expect, the word acquaintances doesn’t receive much coverage in Scripture. Only once does it occur, and this comes from Job when he laments that “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me” (Job 19:13, NIV).

The word friend occurs much more often, hundreds of times. Here are some key verses about friendship:

We should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

Many people mistake acquaintances for friends, but we should distinguish between the two. Though connection begins at the level of acquaintance, true community arises among friends. We should strive to move acquaintances into the level of friendships. And we should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible about friendships.

May our friendships be deep and meaningful, with Jesus in the center.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus Is Our Rabbi

We Must Exercise Care with the Labels We Use for Our Spiritual Leaders

Rabbi is a title I expected to find scattered throughout the Old Testament. It seems like a very Old Testament word. It’s not. It’s a New Testament word. Rabbi only appears in the Gospels and then just three of them: Matthew, Mark, and John.

Most of these sixteen occurrences are a title of respect used to address Jesus.

John notes that Rabbi means teacher (John 1:38). But that’s about all we can learn about this word from the biblical text.

In one of the passages that mentions Rabbi (twice), Jesus teaches the people. He talks about hypocrisy, specifically the inappropriate actions of the Pharisees and religious teachers.

As Jesus talks about their errors, he condemns them for loving the way people fawn over them with greetings of respect and addressing them as Rabbi.

Then he tells them plainly, “You shouldn’t be called Rabbi. You are all brothers and have one teacher” (Matthew 23:1-8). From this we learn to use care in addressing our spiritual teachers, especially when they expect us to demonstrate respect.

How about just using their name instead and not feed into their pride?

A third verse that uses the word Rabbi, doesn’t address Jesus but John the Baptist (John 3:26). The other thirteen times Rabbi appears in the Bible are to address Jesus. The Bible records Peter, Judas, Nathaniel, Nicodemus, a blind man, two of John’s disciples, and Jesus’s disciples addressing him as Rabbi.

Jesus is worthy of our respect and we can call him Rabbi. He alone is our true Rabbi. Click To Tweet

Jesus Is Our Worthy Rabbi

Even though Jesus criticizes the religious elite for wanting people to address them as Rabbi and telling them not to allow it, Jesus doesn’t correct anyone who calls him Rabbi. He accepts the respect they give him—or in Judas’s case, the respect he pretends to give—and responds to their question or request.

Jesus, of course, is worthy of our respect if we call him Rabbi or teacher. He alone is our Rabbi. We can also use other labels such as Savior, Redeemer, and Healer. We can even call him friend, because that’s how he views us (John 15:15).

Jesus is our Rabbi—and our friend.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Kind of Person Are You?

Paul affirms Tychicus as a dear friend, faithful minister, and servant of God

Tychicus is a character in the Bible who most people don’t know. His name occurs only five times, once in Acts and four times in Paul’s letters. The letter to the Colossian church is one example.

Each time Tychicus’s name is mentioned, it’s in passing, and we know little about him, except that Paul often uses him to carry messages to the various churches.

We learn the most about Tychicus’s character in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossi. Once again Paul plans to send him to this church, carrying news about Paul. After he tells them this, he also gives us three characteristics of Tychicus:

A Dear Brother

First Paul affirms Tychicus as a dear brother. Think of him as a much loved, valued friend. We all want to have friends like that. But the place for us to start is to be a friend like that. May we be a dear, loved, and valued friend to others.

A Faithful Minister

In addition to Tychicus’s loyalty, Paul confirms he’s also a faithful minister. First, focus on the word faithful. Tychicus is trustworthy, dependable, and consistent in his work. Paul knows he can count on him.

Next, look at the word minister. Today we think of a minister as someone who preaches sermons and leads a church. But given what we know of Tychicus’s activities, his work as a minister carries the connotation of a helper, representative, and liaison.

That means he works behind the scenes, not upfront where people would see him or offer praise. Tychicus seems both competent and content in this role that other people today may deem as unworthy. May we be a faithful minister like Tychicus.

A Fellow Servant of God

The final trait Paul mentions is Tychicus is a servant of God, just like Paul. Though we may equate the word servant to slave, that could be an overreach. A true servant has a desire to serve others. This means serving God, with the practical application of serving Paul and the church.

Being a servant requires humility. Not many people possess this characteristic, but Paul values Tychicus as God’s servant. May we likewise aspire to serve God as we help others in his name.

May we aspire to serve God as we help others in his name. Click To Tweet

These three traits reveal so much about Tychicus. Though he’s not a celebrated leader or a prolific writer, he’s a godly person, a worthy example for us to follow.

May we be more like Tychicus, someone who’s a dear friend, faithful minister, and servant of God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Colossians 1-4, and today’s post is on Colossians 4:7.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #44: Welcoming Visitors as You Would Embrace Longtime Friends

Attending Church with Friends

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #44.

We revisited this church, which we attended some fifteen years ago. Though many of the people we knew then had scattered to other churches or just dropped out, a good number remained.

I anticipated a time to reconnect with long-ago friends. Also, the congregation had grown, and there was a different minister. I wondered how much has changed.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Before and after the service, we didn’t put forth any effort to talk with anyone. We didn’t have to. People came to us in droves. They came to embrace us as longtime friends. We enjoyed their celebration of our presence, even though they came close to overwhelming us.

Although some churches embraced us well as visitors, none came close to the welcome this church gave us as longtime friends. This gives me pause.

Do I give visitors the same attention and enthusiasm as I give to my friends? I don’t, but I should.

May we welcome visitors to our church as we would embrace longtime friends.

[See my reflections about Church #43 and Church #45 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

New Friends to Guide Us (Visiting Church #40)

We find the church easily. With a parking lot in front and another in back, I choose the closer one. Only after getting out of our car do I notice the sign labeling the building entrance as “offices.” Looking for alternatives, I spot another sign marked “sanctuary.”

To my dismay, it points to the back of the building. With no sidewalk to guide the way and an icy parking lot, I decide it’s better to wander around inside the facility than outside.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

We turn back towards the “office” entrance. Seeing a young couple just arriving, I ask if we can enter there. My wife recognizes the young man; he went to school with our kids. The office entrance takes us directly to the back of the sanctuary. Our new friends invite us to sit with them.

After the service they offer a tour of their facility. First, they take us to the welcome area. Had we parked in back, we’d have entered there. Next is the library and then a gym, flanked by classrooms.

Around the corner are more rooms and the original sanctuary, which is now the domain of the youth, who have placed their unique stamp on the space. Last are the offices, then we return to where we began.

Along the way, we see several friends. Three people ask if we go to church there. The congregation is big enough for them not to know if we’re visitors or regulars.

We thank our tour guides for their kindnesses. Two hours after our arrival, we head for our car, thankful for new acquaintances, reconnection with friends, an engaging time, and a message to contemplate.

[Read about Church #39 and Church #41, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #40.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Let’s Reclaim the True Meaning of the Words Follower and Friend

Social Media Has Trivialized What It Means to Follow Someone and Be Their Friend

Today when we think of the word followers, our mind quickly takes us to Twitter. As in, “How many Twitter followers do you have?” Instagram and Pinterest also lists our number of followers.

And when someone wonders about the number of our friends, it’s often a reference to Facebook. (Goodreads, has friends too, as well as followers). Other social media platforms use different terms to describe the same concept.

In addition to followers and friends, we have likes (also Facebook), connections (LinkedIn), and subscribers (YouTube and our blogs).

For my own social media sites, my total number of followers, friends, connections, and subscribers totals over 20,000. That may be more than you have or less. But this number pales when compared to popular people whose numbers are in the millions.

However, my 20,000 is misleading. Though I don’t need to say it, I will. I don’t know each one of those 20,000 people. It might be 500 of them whose names I recognize. And the number grows smaller for those who I know something about.

Though more telling, however, is the number of people who I’ve had two-way interactions with online in the past week. And even more convicting is the number of people who I’ve had in-person interaction with in the last seven days.

Despite how the internet connects us instantly with anyone around the world, the number of meaningful interactions I’ve had with people (either online or in person) in the past week is quite small. It might be twenty or so, which is 0.1 percent of my so-called followers and friends.

We need to reclaim what it means to be a follower and a friend.

Be a True Follower

To understand what it really means to be a follower, let’s go back to the Bible. Jesus encouraged people to follow him. He said “follow me” twenty-two times, with Matthew 4:29 being the first of many occasions.

We need to be a follower of Jesus. And Paul—as audacious as it seems—encourages people to follow him, as he follows Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Today, we can follow someone with a click of a button and immediately forget that we did it. However, in the New Testament, to be a follower of Jesus was a serious commitment. For Jews who follow Jesus it meant being kicked out of the synagogues and rejected by their subculture.

For non-Jews—that would be Gentiles—it meant embracing a lifestyle foreign to everyone you knew. At best they would ignore you or not do business with you. At worse, it meant rejection and isolation. And throughout the centuries, following Jesus has often resulted in death.

Being a follower of Jesus is a costly commitment; we shouldn’t pursue it without careful consideration. This is much unlike today’s easy-click following of someone on social media. I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow people online.

I am saying that when we follow Jesus we must take it very seriously, because it is. Following Jesus is a lifelong commitment, with real life ramifications.

Don’t seek followers and friends online. Instead be a true follower of Jesus and a true friend to others. Click To Tweet

Be a True Friend

Just as it’s easy to have followers online, it’s easy to have friends there, too. But many people, for all their online friends, are lonely. This is sad. How can we have friends and still be lonely?

Proverbs talks about a friend who is closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24. This starts to get to the true meaning of friendship.

And there’s Jesus. Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners, Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. Though his detractors meant this as a slur, it’s really a sign of character.

A true friend isn’t someone that you exchange likes, shares, and comments with on Facebook. A true friend is someone you can call at any time, and they’ll be there for you, doing whatever they can to help.

This is a convicting consideration, and if you’re like me, your first thought is wondering how many of these true friends we have. The better consideration, however, is wondering how many people would count us as this kind of true, call-you-anytime friend?

Don’t seek followers and friends online. Instead be a true follower of Jesus and a true friend to others. This is what being a follower and a friend truly means.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Make a Difference Wherever You Go

My wife and I are on track to start our “52 Churches” adventure this coming Sunday—look for my first update on Monday.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

As friends prayed about this, they prayed that we would have a positive impact on each of the 52 churches we visited.

This surprised me.

Make a difference wherever I go. Click To Tweet

Though it is generally my goal to make a difference wherever I go, I’d never considered it for the “52 Churches” initiative. I assumed we would merely be observers, taking in and receiving information, but not giving anything in return.

Now that I have had my perspective appropriately adjusted, this adventure has become doubly exciting. I wonder what we will learn—and what we will share.

[Read the next post about 52 Churches.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

God as our Friend

In the next word picture for God, we can consider God as our friend.

As our relationship with God grows and progresses, there is an opportunity for us to become friends, perhaps analogous to a parent and their adult child.

As friends, we (that is, God and us) spend time together, communicate with each other, share, and just hang out. Even so, we need to be reminded that although there is friendship, there is not equality.

[Consider these verses about friendship: Exodus 33:11, John 15:13, Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 18:24, and Proverbs 27:6]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.