Building Friendships Across the Racial Divide
Host a conversation about racial reconciliation, and someone is sure to tout the importance of relationships. And I agree. They are important, but they also require a lot of work. Building relationships is not an easy step. So I thought we could talk about what friendships across the racial divide require of us.
Have you ever heard someone talk about their desire for racial reconciliation, only to discover that the people they spend the majority of their time with look exactly like they do?
Have you ever been that person?
We can spend hours listing the ways we each benefit when we move beyond homogeneity in our lives, but it’s crucial that we do more than merely talk about racial reconciliation. We need to actually build cross-cultural friendships. These relationships can stretch us in ways we never anticipated. The opportunities to learn from one another can be invaluable, greatly impacting our lives. But how are friendships across racial and cultural lines actually formed and sustained?
A Complex Blessing
If we want to develop healthy cross-racial friendships, we need to first acknowledge the complexities and challenges of those friendships. Yes, our differences are beautiful, but they can also cause misunderstandings—even deep hurts. Thankfully, there are many stories in the Bible that teach us what it looks like to form faithful friendships. Ruth and Naomi, Mary and Elizabeth, and the women surrounding Tabitha are all great examples of life-changing female friendships.
One story that’s inspired me, particularly when it comes to cross-cultural relationships, is found in Exodus 2, where three women—Miriam, Jochebed, and Pharaoh’s daughter—worked together to save the life of baby Moses. As these very different women risked everything to rescue Moses, their story reveals to us some of the ways faithful friendships can be formed across ethnic and socioeconomic lines.
1. They were drawn together by a common cause. The reason these women were drawn together is no mystery. Their connection was born of a determination to resist an unjust law. Whether or not they liked each other was of little consequence—their goal was to rescue Moses. They united around a larger cause.
Some friendships are the result of a chance meeting, and others a purposeful introduction. Some are formed in adulthood and others have grown with us since childhood. I love the beginnings of this particular biblical friendship because it speaks to the depth a friendship can reach when it’s founded on a shared commitment to make the world better. We, too, can form cross-cultural friendships that are built around a common cause. A deep sisterhood can grow out of a shared passion. Despite any differences we possess, we are committed to walking together.
2. They treated one another as equals. Though these women came from very different walks of life, each woman was treated respectfully. Pharaoh’s daughter, who had money, power, education, and prestige didn’t chide, disrespect, or humiliate the women standing before her. She resisted treating them as inferiors.
Similarly, Miriam and Jochebed could have expressed disdain for the princess, seeing her only as a representation of all the negative experiences of their lives. But the slave women committed to seeing her beyond her relation to her father, treating her instead as the powerful, compassionate, self-willed woman she was showing herself to be. These women show us the importance of mutual respect—of being able to truly see one another.
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