Interfaith friendships seem far-fetched and almost impossible. But it is possible. Humans are social creatures. We need friendships to survive. Just because someone believes something different from you does not mean you cannot be friends.
I was born into the Methodist church. So I am Christian by nature. However, when I left for college, I spent 4 1/2 years in a new culture where I came into contact with many different people with different religious beliefs. I even developed a few interfaith friendships.
What Are Interfaith Friendships
An interfaith friendship or interreligious relationship is a relationship between 2 or more people who subscribe to different religions. For example, a Christian may be friends with a Muslim, or a Buddhist may be friends with a Jew.
Does The Bible Say Anything About Interfaith Friendships
Unfortunately, I have heard many Christians say they could not be friends with someone of a different religion. The Bible contains lots of scriptures to support this way of thinking. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:33 says do not be duped. Bad company destroys good morals. However, just because someone has different beliefs does not mean they are bad company. They can teach you many things that actually push you closer to God.
Similarly, 2 Corinthians 6:14 says not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. A partnership can’t be righteous if it is lawless, and a fellowship cannot mix light with darkness.
Everyone does not believe in the same thing. It does not mean people with different beliefs are lawless or evil. They simply believe in something different than your religion, just like you believe in something in a different religion.
Remember, everyone has freedom of choice. Those choices should be respected, especially when it comes to religion.
In contrast, Ephesians 4:32 says that we should be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to each other. Practicing kindness means that we should be thoughtful Christians. We should not close ourselves off to people just because they are from another religion.
Galatians 6:10 tells us that we should do good to everyone when we have the opportunity. Yes, we should be good members of the faith. However, we must also do good for everyone, including non-Christians.
How To Create Interfaith Friendships
Whether you actively sought an interfaith friendship or stumbled upon one, you should know a few things before you build a friendship. These tips will help you create a lasting interreligious friendship.
Acknowledge Your Hesitations
Everybody is hesitant about something, including interfaith friendships. Do not run away from these hesitations. Acknowledge them.
Try to figure out why you are hesitant about interacting with people of different faiths. Is it because you have heard bad things about a certain religion or because you are afraid to be judged by members of your faith? Getting to the root of your hesitations can help you overcome your fears and make it easier to converse with someone who is different from you.
Recognize They Are Human Beings
We are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and honor, whether the other person believes in God or not.
Too often, we get caught up in our religions. We don’t realize we aren’t practicing the foundational concepts of Christianity, like love and kindness.
Remember, what may be passion and devotion to God to you may come off as rude and disgusting behavior to a non-Christian. Everyone deserves respect no matter what they believe in.
Look For Common Ground
Everyone has something in common with someone. For example, I was friends with an atheist. Although we did not believe in the same thing, we were both Bahamian which was the foundation for our friendship. Another one of my non-Christian friends majored in psychology. We were able to connect over this and build a friendship.
Similarities break the ice. They make it easier to open up and keep the conversation going.
Acknowledge Your Differences
Acknowledging your differences is just as important as similarities. In failing to acknowledge these differences, you remain close-minded. You won’t be able to see the whole picture.
Remember, beliefs play an important role in shaping who we are and who we become. To be friends, you need to see the whole picture of the other person, not just one small part. Having an open mind removes the blinders and allows you to see if forging a relationship with the other person will be valuable down the line.
Let Go Of Ethnocentrism
I learned about ethnocentrism last year in my intercultural communications class. When you have an ethnocentric view, you see things in one way.
In other words, your culture shapes the way you view the world. Your culture is superior to other people’s culture. Having an ethnocentric view in an interfaith relationship will not work.
You will measure your interactions with the other person based on your own culture. Things that people are foreign to you seem wrong or weird.
For example, Muslims pray 5 times a day. This may seem weird to a Christian or a person from another faith. However, this is just the way that their culture operates. It does not mean that the other person is weird or wrong.
Letting go of ethnocentrism creates the space for a friendship to bloom. Both persons are open to seeing things from the other person’s perspective in a nonjudgmental way.
Create A Safe Space
A safe space is essential to every friendship. Do not judge the other person when they disclose information. Do not try to speak over them. Listen to what they are saying.
Lastly, don’t beat them with the Bible or try to convert them. I’m not saying that you can’t talk about your religion. You can.
However, this is an interfaith friendship. Trying to convert them to your religion is the quickest way to create a non-safe space and end the friendship.
It is better to bring it up at an appropriate time. For example, if the other person is having issues, you can say Christians pray and seek guidance from God when they have problems. What does your religion teach you to do when you have problems?
You can also talk about religion if they have questions. However, do not get offended by their questions if they are honestly trying to understand your religion.
Take Accountability When You Are Wrong
Oddly, you will probably do or say something to hurt the other person’s feelings. They are probably going to do or say something that hurts your feelings. Apologize when you are wrong, and forgive the person who wronged you.
Additionally, do not be afraid to speak up if they hurt your feelings. It will let you know where you stand with the person. If they are willing to take responsibility for their actions and apologize, then you know the friendship is worth saving.
Do Interfaith Relationships Work
Yes, interfaith relationships work. They require a lot of work, but you can form a meaningful relationship with someone of another religion. I’ve been doing it for more than 4 years. As long as your heart is pure, you remain non-judgmental, and you genuinely want to maintain a friendship with the other person, you can have a successful interfaith relationship.