When we think about making new friends cross-culturally, it is important to come into the relationship as a learner. You have to put everything aside that you already know or think you know as you step into this new friend’s life.
I am reminded of how Jesus approached Zaccheus in Luke 19. Zaccheus was a well-known man; he was a tax-collector who cheated many people out of their hard-earned money. But I notice that in this story, Jesus looks past everything that is obvious and goes where Zaccheus is tender, to his home and his dinner table. Zaccheus was astonished that someone, especially Jesus, who knew who he was, would want to step foot in his house. Jesus was all about bringing light into Zaccheus’s life.
Think about what would light your heart on fire. I know I love it when people eat my food, when they make a point to ask about my family, or just show interest in my children. When I first started to get to know my Hindu friends, the gap was bridged between us because I was vulnerable and sometimes super uncomfortable. But I was genuinely interested in who they were as people and what their culture was. So I asked how to properly eat with my hands, how to make the best chai and pav bhaji, and even how to speak a little Hindi.
I believe that there are portions of each culture that Jesus has redeemed. Just like there are parts of North American culture that are beautiful and inline with what God wants for his people, there are many aspects of the Hindu community I love and even tried to adopt into my own life. One of these is the way my Hindu friends build and have community. When being a new friend, show your own vulnerability and be willing to learn and love the beautiful parts of your friend. You will encounter ugly things as well but you may find these other aspects of your friends worthy of adopting into your own life. The genuine interest to see beauty in a new friend is the key to friendship, sharing life, and sharing Jesus.
For ideas of what questions or subjects to learn about, check out Neil’s article on 20 Ways to Give a Warm Welcome to a Hindu.