You know him as the man behind The Five Love Languages, but Dr. Gary Chapman’s engaging new book is a timely departure from that franchise.
Life-Changing Cross-Cultural Friendships, written with his African American friend Clarence Shuler, calls Christians to counter the prevailing racial divide in the US by initiating relationships across boundaries.
The book ends with the challenge, “So will you . . . with God’s help seek to begin a friendship with someone of a different race or culture in the coming year?”
Perhaps it’s not: if you look across the landscape of your neighborhood, work relationships, and close friends and see a kaleidoscope of colors and backgrounds, high-five the screen you’re reading this on and move along.
But maybe you shy away from the challenge because you’re an introvert. You don’t even like to befriend people just like you!
Perhaps you live in a homogenous area where diversity is limited to preferring different Bible versions or one’s relative prowess on the pickleball court.
Maybe you’ve tried and got rejected.
Maybe you were raised in a situation such that initiating a friendship with someone of a different color is flat-out terrifying.
Maybe it seems like an added burden to an already complicated life.
I hear you. So do Chapman and Shuler.
Why Gary Chapman and Clarence Shuler are friends
Their winsome and hopeful book tells the unlikely story of their own relationship born in the North Carolina of 1968, a place and time not known for happy Black-White relations.
As the story unfolds, we see that this is a friendship not sustained by “we should be good Christians and do this” but rather by ongoing mutual benefit.
As Shuler and Chapman share the beautiful stories of iron sharpening iron, shared family life, and mutual support, I couldn’t help but think, “I want friendships like that!”
While building motivation for interracial and intercultural relationships, the authors also provide practical encouragement. They challenge us to lead with courtesy, treating potential friends as if they’re already your friends.
A call to do more than tolerate other cultures
They illustrate how to handle conflict in cross-racial relationships, like the time early in their friendship when Chapman picked up Shuler and his friend for youth group and asked, “You boys ready to go?”
It took some intentional unpacking to realize the impact that word had on Shuler and that Chapman would have said it to White kids as well.
Recognizing the value of the Holy Spirit’s help in building inter-racial friendships, the authors root their teaching in Scripture. One of my favorite challenges in the book emerges from Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Shuler and Chapman encourage us to celebrate, not simply tolerate, other cultures.
The cross-cultural friendship challenge
Throughout Life-Changing Cross-Cultural Friendships, Chapman and Shuler ask the question, “What would happen if every Christian in America had at least one friend of a different race or culture?”
It’s a good question, isn’t it?
They assert that “75 percent of Whites do not have any friends of color, and this percentage is even higher in the evangelical church.”
This book has affected me.
I’m asking God for the opportunity to initiate a mutually beneficial friendship across race or culture lines, in my case with a Black person, before the year is out.
Will you join me?