Following Jesus into Real Friendships with Others
by Thomas Davis
The fruit of Jesus-centered peacemaking is real, authentic friendship. This is much more than a politely-tolerate-one-another level of “friendship,” because Jesus calls us to actively love others, even those with whom we have real differences.
Here in Raleigh, our Peace Catalyst community is working to foster these kinds of friendships between Muslims and Christians—friendships in which we laugh and cry together, talk openly about our deepest convictions, and work together for the common good.
Here are a few recent highlights from our friendship-building efforts:
LOVING OTHERS in the Way of Jesus
LOVING OTHERS in the Way of Jesus is a curriculum we developed to help Christians follow Jesus into authentic friendship with those outside their own faith communities.
A few weeks ago we had Samar Shawa as a guest speaker. Samar and her husband, Iyad, are dear friends of my family. They are Arab Muslims of Palestinian descent who are now American citizens, having lived and worked and raised their children in the Raleigh area for 24 years. Before the evening was over, we all laughed together and cried together and even prayed together--with class members praying powerful prayers of blessing over our dear Muslim guest. As Samar was leaving, she told me that she will brag to all of her Muslim friends about this church that is showering her with love and respect!!
Turkish Muslims Invade an Evangelical Church Facility
With Fellowship of Christ’s support, we lead what we call the Blessing Our Community group, a group of Jesus-followers who purpose together to share the love and blessings of God with others in our community. On the first Saturday evening in May, we did this by inviting one of the local Turkish communities to join us for an evening of food, fellowship, and friendship-building.
The Christians learned the ins and outs of halal (permissible) food, and prepared a feast for our guests. The Turks were visibly moved by this act of hospitality and love, and one of the leaders noted that he had never been in an Evangelical church building and that they had never before had Christians prepare halal food for them.
After dinner, we had a human raffle. The Christians wrote their names and phone numbers on slips of paper, and then the Muslims drew out names randomly. The prize was a coffee date to be scheduled in the month of May, so that each Muslim woman would meet for coffee with a Christian woman and each Muslim man with a Christian man.
Afterward, our Turkish guests kept telling me that they were overwhelmed by the love and kindness of the Christians, and the Christians raved about the evening as well! I can't wait to hear the stories that come from all the coffee meetings.
Church-Synagogue Gardening Project
Christ Baptist and Beth Meyer Synagogue, faith communities whose facilities are next door to one another in North Raleigh, have broken ground on a joint community gardening project. Christ Baptist is a very large Southern Baptist Church, and Beth Meyer is a very large fellowship in United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The two communities have started simply with one raised-bed plot, and the Jewish and Christian youth groups will work together to manage and maintain the garden.
My Challenge To You!
With our Muslim friends here in the Raleigh area, we garden, we have family play dates, we celebrate birthdays, we share meals in one another’s homes and coffee dates out, and we even pray together. We try to find every possible reason to get together, and we prioritize these friendships in our schedules and with our finances.
Will you join us in following Jesus into authentic friendships?