When Kelly asked me if she could share about her cross-gender, interfaith best friend, I was very excited to read her submission. I asked for unexpected relationships and she delivered! I so appreciate her candid addition here. If you’d like to submit a guest post, check out the guidelines here.
When I wrote “What I Learned from the Orthodox Jews”, I ended with this sentence: “Most of all, I learned about friendship with people who were different from me in belief, practice, and culture.”
Some of the friendships that began back then continue to this day, and I want to tell you about one of them. In order to protect his privacy, we’ll call him Adam. Adam has been an Orthodox Jew his entire life. He began learning Hebrew at age 5 and Aramaic at age 9. He has never not been an Orthodox Jew. His entire family is Orthodox, and some of them have no contact with Gentiles at all. Due to his occupation, Adam has a lot of contact with Gentiles and has had contact with them via online discussion forums as well. It was one of these discussion forums in which we met, and I felt very intimidated at first. Not only was he knowledgeable about Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures, he was knowledgeable about Christianity and the New Testament. In fact, he had even learned Greek so that he could read the New Testament in its original language.
Over the years, we’ve shared (through instant messaging) what is happening in our families and lives. We have met in person twice, have shared (kosher) meals together, and he’s even called me on my birthday to say happy birthday.
This friendship may seem odd to many people. Often, in Christianity, male-female friendships are frowned upon. And in Judaism, there are many rules about interaction with people of the opposite sex (so, for example, I couldn’t give him a hug went we met in person).
We’ve had meals together, where he laughed at my embarrassment over trying to correctly pronounce challah or where I looked in disdain at my meal when it arrived because it had mushrooms on it. He took the mushrooms.
I can text him with dumb random questions, like, “Hey, I forgot the name of the thing you hang on your doorposts. What is it?” (mezuzah). I can joke with him about how awful it is that he will never be able to eat the lasagna or chicken enchiladas that I make (dietary laws about not mixing meat and milk). I can ask questions about things that don’t make sense to me in the Bible without feeling as if he is going to be concerned for the state of my soul for doubting or questioning. When I read Christian books that say things about Jews or Judaism, I can ask him whether or not they get it right (I have one booklet that is supposed to be about Judaism and I can’t believe that it ever got published; the author had no real clue about anything!). He can look things up for me in texts that I do not have access to.
Some Christians are probably reading this, wondering, “well, what have you told him about Jesus? Have you tried to convert him? Have you warned him about hell?”
No, I haven’t.
There are many reasons for this. One, he already has an understanding of scripture that is different from my own; it won’t change. Two, I don’t think I need to “try to convert him” or “warn him about hell” (plus, he’s had numerous Christians try to do this already). Three, I think if I did do those things, it would ruin a good friendship and there are already too many broken relationships in this world. I’m sure some people are disappointed in me for this; I’m sure some of you think that it is my duty to spread the good news to him.
But you know what? None of that matters to me. What matters to me the most is that one day, he said to me, “I’m glad I met you. If I hadn’t, I’d have a pretty negative view of Christians.” And I smiled, and I know that this friendship honors God and makes Him happy.
And that is good news.
Kelly J. Youngblood is a writer who blogs about faith and life at http://renewing-your-mind.blogspot.com. Her main writing interests are identity, vocation/calling, and the Kingdom of God. She is married and has two young boys who keep her very busy and in need of coffee every morning and chocolate every afternoon. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, fashion, ballet, attending college football games, and the newly discovered joy of bicycling with her family.