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 Leave a Comment
Jas wilson says
Michelle Reyes says
Thank you, Jas!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I think the reason I love my job as a crossing guard so much is because I get to interact with children and parents from many different countries and with many hues of skin. I’m learning words in several languages – particularly words of greeting and welcoming. It’s fun. It is amazing how people open up like a beautiful rose if you start asking some questions that show interest in them as a person. I think Jesus was a good listener (vs. continual talker) and that drew people to Him. I’m trying to take my cues from Him. Also, having worked for 8 years with a global ministry that helps orphans and impoverished children in hard to reach countries, I have learned that I have much in common with my brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to value ALL people and let their lives rub off on ours. Lovely post!
Michelle Reyes says
I love that, Bev, and completely agree. Valuing people means being good listeners, asking questions, and genuinely caring about their lives. We need to “let their lives rub off on ours” – couldn’t have said it better myself!
Susan Long says
Coincidence that I am reading this as I prepare to board a plane for India today? I think not! The Lord works in many wondrous ways!
Michelle Reyes says
That’s awesome! May God bless your time in India, and may you see anew a picture of Christ in the imago dei of the Indians that you meet.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I love the fact that even before I was saved. I have cousin yes her name is Moon. Yes Moon. You might find that wearied. But that is what her Mum my Dads Sister decided to call her. Infact the name suits her. Moon my cosin is not saved. Has a daughter of her own a single parent. Why I value people of all walks of life Moon my cousin has sallow skin. It is not white it is nor brown brown it is inbetween. You know by her skin in not whilte like mine or brown brown but different to mine. I and my sisters plus the rest of our family has never seen Moon as different. Moon Dad we have never met. So we don’t know really what color his sinks is. We probably never will meet him. Moon Mum my Dads sister never married. Moon Mum not saved. I have got used to people with all walks of life in another way as well especially when I used be a Childminder. I was saved then. I was looking after a we boy from a baby. His parents Philippine’s. They are saved. They love me. We are still friends today. Even though they no longer live here in Enniskillen. So it has taught me from my cousin Moon as we child to value people of all ages no matter what their color or skin type. Especially more so since getting saved. Learning that kids song in Sunday School when small all thoes years ago. As today it so true. As we are all God’s Children. I am so thank full to my parent’s who even my late mum. I do hope to see her Glory one day. I did pray for her salvation. Thank full. Both my parent’s for sending me to Sunday School. As I learnt the song there. It is Jesus Love all the little children of the world Red and Yellow Black and White. How true that is. As we are his Children. I am glad to be his child. I pray for my family to one day come to know Jesus. I valule all people. As they are all beautiful in God’s eyes. We are all Daughter’s of the King. I say Amen to that. I am glad I got to be a Registered Childminder for 19 years. As it taught me alot. To love all God we Kids I looked after. I was able to teach the about Gods love as most of them didn’t come from Christian Family. I brought things into their lives in a nice way. Not to pushey. Like PSALTY the singing song book. I got it on dvd. The kids I looked after loved it. So in a nice way they heard about God. Plus read them nice kids Bible story books. Done coloring in picture of Bible things. Plus ordinary coloring and ordinary story’s as well. Plus we had ordinary kids programs. I did not go to far to let the parents think I was being to pushey with it. But PASTLY was a big hit with them. I like today’s reading. I like all the reading. From you all incourage. Thank you for writing them. I learn so much from them. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxx
Michelle Reyes says
Amen, Dawn. I’m so thankful for how God drew you to himself, and for the ways he has used your own family to see the beauty of all peoples. Thanks for sharing your story with us today.
This is good stuff …but often we forget that adults with disabilities (physical, mental illness and/or intellectual) are the largest hidden people group among us. Many only have “friends” with people who are paid to be with them and often times they don’t feel welcome in churches (for good reason because they can cause our traditions to be ruffled). We have to move out of our comfort zone and be Jesus to those affected by disability also.
Michelle Reyes says
Absolutely! We must see the image of God in all peoples, whether that be the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, or a person who is physically or mentally impaired. We are all of equal value and worth, for no other reason than the fact that we are all God’s children. And, yes, we must go out of our way and get out of our comfort zones to make ALL people feel welcome. So glad you brought this up, Kathi.
M @ In Beautiful Chaos says
“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.”
I LOVE that!!!!! So often as western Christians we lose sight of (or even forget!) that Jesus was not a red-headed surfer from California (like so many movies and paintings portray Him!). He was a practicing Jew, He was Middle-Eastern, He most likely had dark hair and eyes, and He wasn’t afraid of mixing with those who were different from Him!
Thank you for reminding us that we need to value everyone, after all, EVERYONE was made in God’s image! Red, yellow, black, and white, rich and poor, born and UNBORN, those who believe and those who are lost, We are ALL made in God’s image!
Michelle Reyes says
haha Jesus definitely was not a red-headed surfer from Cali. Yes, it’s important for us, as Christians, to remember that Jesus had a cultural identity, and his life and ministry attests to both the ways he embraced his Jewish identity and the ways he learned to culturally accommodate to others. This is the model for how we are to live as well.
love that you mmentioned Yeshua as a Jew…you certainly don’t hear that out of most churches !! we have opened our home and lives to many cultures but I think not even noticing they were cultures..they were people first , I don’t notice that a taco is from one culture or that a design is from another..im blessed to bumble thru life first noticing the heart and intention of each person. my own family is 35 cultures so who could say anything against another culture anyway ???
Michelle Reyes says
Krissy, I love your heart for people. And I love that you have welcomed people into your home without question or asking them to change, first, who they are. That is my hope and prayer for us, collectively, as the body of Christ.
Jennifer Waddle says
Thank you, Michelle!
My favorite line is: We value people — all people — because God made us all and is drawing all of us to Himself.
Michelle Reyes says
Thank you for reading! I’m glad that line encouraged you. It encourages me too 🙂
Becky Keife says
“We value people — all people — because God made us all and is drawing all of us to Himself.” Yes, Michelle! I think this is so important to note. We don’t love others in spite of our differences or even because of our differences, but because we are all very much the same as image-bearers of God. And our cultures and unique stories and ethnicities all point back to a creative God who values beauty expressed in limitless ways. Thanks for the encouragement. xx
Michelle Reyes says
Thank you, friend! Yes, in many ways, the beginning of thriving, flourishing relations across cultures begins by seeing all peoples the way God does.
Beth Williams says
We as a country have to love each other unconditionally. The first step in doing that is to learn about other cultures. Talk to people of other cultures & like Jesus listen wholeheartedly to them. I worked at a university student health center for 8 years. We had numerous middle eastern students. It seemed scary at first. If you talked to them & treated them the same as others-you’d discover they are no different. Prejudice & bigotry must be eradicated in the Christian sphere. We need to show this world God’s love for everyone. Currently I live in a small rural town. We have mostly white Americans. Don’t often get to see people of other cultures. Travel a few miles into the next town & you will see a host of cultures. For me I try my best to treat everyone equally no matter what. We are all made in the image of Almighty God. He doesn’t see a difference in us-just forgiven sinners. Let’s all look at & love each other equally.
Thank you for this! It’s important we reflect the love of Jesus by sharing life with ALL of God’s children. So appreciate your words.
Good morning Michelle
As a child of a dad who was a musician, drummer I had the pleasure of seeing many other musicians coming into our home. Trust me, they were a rag tag bunch of wonderfully creative people of all nationalities. I didn’t know any different way of looking at them . What a beautiful way to begin my childhood. It wasn’t until I left home that I really saw the discrepancies. It sickened me. However, I believe that we’re seeing a change, a conviction, conversations are becoming more honest and heartfelt. It’s only through blogs like yours and comments I read that this mindset will change! I love this post! Thanks for your challenge Michelle.
“For Jesus, it was never about the cultural experience. It was always about the people of those cultures.”
Oh, I love this. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a valued friend, or something more of a “collectible item” – how many times I’ve heard my own stories retold just so someone could say, “Well, I have this Asian friend who _____, so that’s how they do it”! Or people who explain my culture to me because they travelled to China/Japan/Korea this one time. I’m still learning how to speak gracefully of these experiences, and to engage in my own learning and loving others of different cultures.
Thankful for your voice at incourage! <3