“Loving On”?: Crosscultural Friendship as a Two-Way Street

One of my biggest regrets looking back on my first few years of being involved with internationals in America is the way I (with the best of intentions!) treated people like projects. I viewed what I did as “ministry to” others rather than “walking with” others.

I think I’m not the only one who did/does this. The term “loving on” is a perfect example of the way we unknowingly engage in one-way love and service in a way that dehumanizes others.

When we “love on” someone, it sounds like they are incapable of loving us back. The love is done to them (if I’m honest, I imagine a headlock and a noogie), and then we walk away, checking that ministry off our to do list. But we are called to more than this.

We are called to mutuality.

What is mutuality? Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the sharing of a feeling, action, or relationship between two or more parties.” A shared relationship goes both ways. A relationship is not “done” by one party to the other. Rather, it is cultivated by both in the spaces between them.

Oh, the beauty and wonder of a crosscultural friendship characterized by mutuality! Differences bridged, commonalities discovered, perspective gained!

But for this kind of friendship to grow, a few key ingredients are needed:

  1. Small touches over time
  2. Hospitality of heart (and likely of home) on both sides
  3. Respect

I’m sure this is not a complete list. Please comment to share: What has been a key ingredient in growing your crosscultural friendships?


Want more encouragement and practical tips for welcomers? Pick up a copy of my book, Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus, and subscribe to this blog!



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