I was sitting in a quaint neighborhood café with an old friend, drinking a steaming cup of chai with a Latin twist, and catching up when she suddenly became serious and asked, “How do I make more friends from other cultures?” Amid a conversation about marriage and babies, her question came out of nowhere, but I understood.
Her family had just recently moved across the country to a new city and a new home. They needed something fast and had found an apartment with all the modern flares within an affordable price. The only problem, though, was that everyone in their neighborhood was of the same ethnicity and socio-economic class. They all did, lived, and breathed the same things, but my friend wanted more. She didn’t want to live in a bubble. She didn’t want to be blinded by her own monocultural community to the lives, needs, and joys of other peoples, nor did she want to live a life in which she didn’t have differing ideas and expressions and lifestyles to challenge and stretch her own. And as one of her sole minority friends, I was glad she had asked me for help.
So, we pushed our mugs aside and pulled out our Bibles because if ever there was a model for how to connect with people of other cultures, it is found in the life and ministry of Jesus. This brown-skinned Jewish man seamlessly related with both Jews and Gentiles, with people who shared His ethnicity and people who didn’t, and He beckons us to follow after Him.
The gospels paint a picture of Jesus engaging in a diverse range of cross-cultural relationships that are both rich and beautiful. We see Him speaking to a Samaritan woman at a well in John 4. He heals the servant of a Roman centurion in Matthew 8, and He speaks with a group of Greeks during Passover in John 12, among many others. In each of these encounters, He always seems to know what to say, how to connect with people, and how to make them feel loved. He dines with people, gives them food, and tells them about the everlasting nourishment that comes from God alone. He cares for the sick, walks miles to weep with those who weep, and calls people He’s never met “daughter.”
For Jesus, it was never about the cultural experience. It was always about the people of those cultures.
I think this is where we often get caught up. We love breakfast tacos and queso, going on mission trips to Central America and Africa, wearing clothes with indigenous patterns, and listening to hip hop, but we don’t have a single African American, Mexican American, or Native American friend. We’ve prioritized our own individualism and the desire for unique experiences over making relationships with real people, and that’s the problem.
I’m not saying you can’t go on vacation to a country outside the USA. Sure, even Jesus traveled throughout His life. He reclined on different sofas and ate different foods, but that was never the end goal. His purpose, always, was to go after men and women, to meet them where they are, listen to their stories, and show them His love. Jesus Himself says in John 12:32, “I will draw all people to myself.” It didn’t matter how far away someone was or how inconvenient the travel would be, He put a precedence on reaching out to the people around him, no matter their culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status or religious affiliation because Jesus valued all people.
This is the lesson we learn from Jesus: We must value spending time with people that are different from us.
Want to know where to start with cross-cultural relationships? Start by valuing every single person from every single culture as special and important, for no other reason than the fact that they are made in the image of God. We don’t value someone because of what they can do for us, how they look, or how they make us feel. We don’t value immigrants, as some people think, because they clean our homes and hotels. We don’t value Indians simply because many of them are making advancements in our science and tech industries. We don’t value Mexicans just because we like taquerias. We value people — all people — because God made us all and is drawing all of us to Himself.
Practically, this means we need to go out of our way to spend time in spaces that are ethnically and culturally different from us. If you have a Somali neighborhood, make it a point to regularly shop for groceries at their supermarket, and while there, talk to people, smile at other shoppers, and find a way to make friends with the workers. Consider taking your kids to a playground in a different part of town, a part where they’ll rub shoulders with children of other ethnicities. The same thing could be said for where you get your hair cut, where you work out, where you go to church, and even where your kids go to school. Think of the main ethnic demographics in your community and seek them out to show them you value their lives, their stories and that you want to be their friend. This is what Jesus did; let’s be like Him and do likewise.
This is the lesson we learn from Jesus: We must value spending time with people that are different from us. -@drmichellereyes: Click To Tweet