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February 5, 2013

Counterfeit Connection

Small Town Talk: How to cultivate genuine relationships

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I'm a small town girl. I love connected communities where the beauticians know everyone's business, where men ride their lawn mowers in the 4th of July parade, and where the mayor is also the school bus driver.

As small towns are overtaken by suburban sprawl, we're losing our sense of connected community. Depressed and lonely people are everywhere—even in the church—and heartfelt friendships are becoming as scarce as hen's teeth. Many of us have an abundance of only shallow, "smile and wave" acquaintances. And we carry a void in our hearts that can only be filled by deep, authentic relationships with God and others.

In Matthew 22:36-40, someone asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus answered that the law and the prophets hang on two commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor. We all have a longing for belonging because God has wired us for relationship.

In the midst of all my family's moves, I discovered that small towns hold a secret or two about the power of living in connected community.

Small town people know that we were meant for more than just virtual friendships. Rural life is often a bit behind the big city when it comes to technology, but the people there don't mind because they know that electronic communication is a poor substitute for true face-to-face relationships. Although technology can make our lives more convenient, counterfeit connections are one-dimensional. We can have "friends" on Facebook, email pen pals, chat room buddies, and text messaging conversations—but none of it is real communication. The words are there, but the deeper meaning and intimacy are lost.

Jesus was all about connecting with real people. What if he would have "Facebooked" the Woman at the Well? When we read the story in John 4, it's clear that a big part of Jesus' impact was the fact that he was sitting in public talking to: (1) a woman, and (2) a Samaritan. He was risking being seen with her, and he was taking time from his busy life to sit and talk with her. Jesus' life was about people—up close and personal—genuine connection, not counterfeit connection. Technology is a great thing, but overusing it can rob us of real relationships.

Excerpted from TCW article "Cultivating Meaningful Friendships" by Jenni Roni

Related Tags: Authenticity, Community, Friendship, Time management, Trust

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