Build Intentional Cross-Cultural Relationships

Chi Panistante's "Woman at the Well"
Chi Panistante’s “Woman at the Well”

Christian, B.I.C-C.R., don’t bicker.

To illustrate, let’s pretend. Jesus Himself used made up stories to illustrate his teaching points, so I think that legitimizes our strategy. Let’s pretend that we own and manage a store in a small town in America.

It’s a town of thousands, but not tens of thousands. It’s a store with a couple dozen employees. We sell practical things. Shovels and salt in winter, watering cans and seeds in spring, sprinklers and mosquito repellents in summer, and rakes in fall.

Most months, we just barely break even. So we’re not living the high life, but there’s food on the table and an un-leaky roof over our heads. We love our store and our life, and we are content.

But then it happens. A large sum of money goes missing. It’s not hard to figure out who took it. That young employee from “Creekside,” of course.

“Creekside” is that neighborhood. You know the one. The low-income housing with chipped paint and un-mowed lawns. Where people with weird accents, weird food, and weird habits live.

So we are crushed and hurt. We are battered by police questioning, insurance claims, lawyers, court dates and “friends” who say, “Well, what did you expect when you employed someone from Creekside.”

And we must choose. Choose how to move forward. Choose to bicker or B.I.C-C.R.

If we choose bicker, we go into fight mode. We set up new hiring policies which ensure people from Creekside don’t get hired. We instruct employees to keep a very watchful eye on Creekside customers and pounce on potential trouble makers. We foster an “us” vs. “them” mentality. We indulge in gossip about all the problems Creekside people have, thanking God that we are not like them and promising to pray.

The Creeksiders will notice. They will perceive that they are unwelcome and begin to avoid our store. They will complain and gossip about us and foster bitterness in their hearts. And it spirals only downward.

But what would Jesus do? What would Jesus choose? John 4 makes that pretty clear. “Creekside” in Jesus’ day was known as Samaria. Most Jews would take long, extended walks around Samaria to avoid it. But not Jesus. He purposely and intentionally walked through Samaria, got tired and thirsty and plopped Himself down by Jacob’s well in Sychar.

Jesus purposely and intentionally engaged a woman (a woman!) in extended conversation. He did not excuse her sin as “that’s just how Samaritans are,” but rather pointed out her sin and helped her acknowledge it.

And when the woman tried to distract him with a who’s-right-and-who’s-wrong question, Jesus so wisely directs her attention to seeking and worshiping God. When the townspeople ask Him to stay, He gives them two days of His time.

So back to our games of let’s pretend. We must choose. We could chose to bicker, or we could chose to B.I.C-C.R.: Build Intentional Cross-Cultural Relationships. We could take a look at our “Creekside,” go plop ourselves down in the middle of it, and seek to build.

How does one Build an Intentional Cross-Cultural Relationship? It’s as simple as looking across the proverbial aisle, finding someone different from yourself and seeking to get to know that person.

If you are young, listen to that old person’s story. If you are old, listen to that young person’s loud obnoxious song.

If you are Hispanic, go have Kimchi with the Koreans for lunch. If you are Filipino, try the taco stand.

Shop at the “Mexican” grocery store. Worship at the “Black” church.

Not to check off a list. Not to prove to yourself that you are brave enough to do it.

But because you are trying to love God and love your neighbor. Because you understand that God made each and every person in His image. The Nigerians, the Indonesians, the Saudi Arabians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Cubans, the Dutch, the Canadians, the New Zealanders etc. etc. etc. Each and every person on this planet is a person that the God we claim to worship LOVES. Building relationships with people like ourselves is easy. So we must purpose and we plan to build relationships with people who are different.

Please don’t misunderstand. By “build relationships” I do NOT mean bursting in, telling them how to do things right (my way) and “fixing” problems. I mean, rather, approach people to listen and to learn. Slowly, over time, just be there for them. Pray for them, lend an understanding ear and a shoulder to cry on. Preach God’s truth as often as they need to hear it.

Warning: B.I.C-C.R.ingwill cost. Heavily.

You will have to listen twice and long and twice as hard to understand someone with a thick accent. You will be exposed to burdensome needs that you will feel compelled to do something about. These needs will drain your time, energy and money. And some of those that you try to befriend, will let you down. Hard.

But you will be storing up treasure right where you are supposed to.

Christian, remember that Christ dwelt in heavenly perfection. But He left the comfort of His home for the dust and dirt of earth. He came and lived among haters, liars and thieves. He had a disciple that abused his trust, stole from him, and betrayed Him. He died a death that He did not deserve so that He could build a relationship with you.

So Christian, don’t bicker, B.I.C-C.R. Build Intentional Cross-Cultural Relationships. You can’t change your government or fix all the problems in this crazy, messed-up world. But you can change yourself. You can build instead of tear down.

I can’t imagine how boring my life would be without all my cross-cultural friendships. They have taught me so much.

Let’s B.I.C-C.R., not bicker.

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