The Right Hand of Fellowship

June 28th is National Handshake Day. I discovered this tidbit by clicking on a link on my MSN homepage. It took me to an article written by Kate Lorenz, who is the article and advice editor for

This well-written piece made my mind run on several different tracks. I thought of all the dead fish handshakes I received through the years. Yuck! But, these are not nearly as unnerving as the clammy palm hand shakes. Yikes! That made me think of all the times my dear wife has reminded me that the most common way those creepy crawly germs infiltrate our bodies is by catching a ride on our hands. I also remembered the comment my wife made just a few days ago when we were attending a social event. After a young man we were visiting with walked away, she looked at me with a her sad face on and said, “He shook my hand like I was a man. It really hurt.” There really is something about this whole handshake thing, isn’t there?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t dwelt on this all day long. But, I did think about it long enough to remember the comment the Apostle Paul made about handshakes. After his meeting with the highly esteemed leaders of the Christian community on Jerusalem in which he set before them the Gospel he preached among the Gentiles, he stated that these leaders “gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me” (cf. Galatians 2:1-10).

This “right hand of fellowship” was something more than a vote of confidence or an endorsement of their message. Just as they extended their hands to them as a gesture of acceptance and approval, they were signaling their willingness to participate in the kingdom building effort described by Paul and Barnabas. By way of confirmation, Thayer tells us that the root word used for fellowship means: “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation…and…the right hand [of fellowship] as a sign and pledge of fellowship.”

All this set me to thinking about all of the people surrounding us every day who are busily engaged in kingdom service, often without notice or thanks. So I thought: Why don’t we just co-opt this idea of a handshake day and make this an occasion for renewing our pledge of fellowship, communion and joint participation with those who embrace Christ’s kingdom calling on our lives? Why not make this a day for sending emails, making phone calls or stopping in to visit someone just to extend the right hand of fellowship?

© Bill Williams

June 27, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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7 Responses to The Right Hand of Fellowship

  1. Greg England says:

    Growing up in the south, we were taught a person could learn a lot about another person by a handshake. The firmness of the grip, the callousness / softeness of hands, how the other person looked you in the eye. A handshake was as good as a signature, as well. I’ve driven more than one car off a lot on a Friday or Saturday (there was actually a time when banks were not open on Sat / Sun, so financial transactions had to be done the following Monday) with nothing more than a handshake to confirm that I’d be back on Monday morning to sign the papers and complete the deal.

  2. So true, Greg. Many years ago, while our families were vacationing in Colorado, I watched from the motor home as my father-in-law visited with one of the locals who was working in his garden about whether he knew of any good building sites for sale.

    They talked. They gestured. They talked some more. He then returned to the motor home. We all asked if he told him about any good sites.

    In his slow Texas twaaang he replied, “Sure did. I just bought six lots from him.”

    “Where?” my mother-in-law asked.

    He said, “Those right there. The ones back there by the fence line and those trees.”

    Well, we were shocked. There was no “for sale” sign posted anywhere. The lots weren’t listed by any realtor, either. The owner wanted to sell them, but he was he was in the position to be very picky about who his neighbors would be.

    He said that when my father-in-law walked up to him, extended his hand and looked him in the eye then gave him a firm handshake and introduced himself the deal was done. All they had to do was work out the details, which took about five minutes.

    BTW, the site was one of the best still available in La Veta, Colorado. From the living room of the house we built on this land, we could see 9 peaks towering over 12,000 feet. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting there right now!

  3. The right hand of fellowship is certainly more pleasant than the right “fist” of fellowship that we often give and receive.

    As always you stimulate me to deeper insight and discipleship.

    Bobby Valentine

  4. Bill says:


    Thanks for popping in again at the Spiritual Oasis! Just wondering if you’ve been reading stories about J.D. Tant, with those thoughts of the right fisted fellowship.

    I’ve received a few of those blows and–to my shame–given a few of them. That’s one of the reasons I’m so committed to living into a different vision from now on. I sometimes wonder: What would we do differently if we really loved one another with the love of the Lord?

    I enjoy your stoned-campbelldisciple blog very much and have added it to my blogroll. Keep the good stuff coming.

    Blessings to you and yours! -bill

  5. Cecil says:

    I had a dear Brother do the very thing you’re advocating yesterday. It was over the phone but nevertheless it was “firm” and affirming.

    Spiritualoasis – I haven’t been to Colorado since but I would love to be in your livingroom enjoying the view.

  6. Dee Andrews says:

    Very good post and wonderful comments and stories from everyone. I came by here yesterday just briefly, but didn’t have the chance to read all of the way through your post, the comments or to comment myself. So, I’m (as usual) a “day late and a dollar short” and thus couldn’t take special heed of your final admonition.

    However, that was how my day turned out anyway and along the way I created the opportunity to spend over two hours with my younger son, Mark, last night sitting at our dining table together here and discussing many spiritual, theological, psychological and personal questions and issues with each other that were all of great benefit and blessings for us both.

    btw – I find it most interesting that you mention J. D. Tant in one of your comments above. For more than four years when I was very young and first married, we lived in Nacogdoches, Texas where the name and certain “philosophies” and mindsets were very much at the forefront in the various congregations there. I haven’t heard that name or thought about those days in a very long time and am wondering why and how you bring that up here today in commenting in response to Bobby Valentine. I’m obviously missing something here that precedes your comment and mention of J. D. Tant.

    I know a lot happened (and had happened) and that we experienced first hand a lot of troubles while in Nacogdoches in several different congregations filled with members of vastly differences of opinion and beliefs before we could find a place we could call home.

  7. karl villani says:

    My question is whether any of y’all southerners have ever encountered the notion that the “right hand of fellowship” is in fact the left hand? as opposed to the right hand of fellowship being i.e the physical right hand? Have any of you ever encountered a pastor, or church anywhere where the pastor insists that his left hand is the ‘right hand of fellowship’ and whilst in worship if you raise your orthodox right hand up he takes this as an attempt to challenge his authority ,which he administers through his left hand? This is a true story ,please help me understand this practice .

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