Building Friendships Across the Racial Divide

Cross-cultural friendships take more than good intentions.
Building Friendships Across the Racial Divide

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.

Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown is a TCW regular contributor and columnist. A resident director and multicultural liaison at Calvin College, Austin is passionate about racial reconciliation—and has a slight obsession with books. When she's not reading, you'll find Austin watching HGTV or updating her blog

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Culture; Friendship; Racial Reconciliation; Relationships; Respect; Scripture
Today's Christian Woman, May 27, 2015
Posted May 27, 2015

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