The Friendship Challenge is a six-week guide, helping individuals and groups promote racial reconciliation in their communities—one person at a time, one friendship at a time. The first week prepares individuals and groups to reach out to a person on the other side of the racial divide, whether it is a person at work or in a nearby church. The next five weeks take that small group through a study that fosters true reconciliation—the kind of reconciliation Jesus showed in his own life and death.
Take the Friendship Challenge and spend the next six weeks cultivating true reconciliation in your community.
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About the Author
Senator Tim Scott has made it his mission to positively affect the lives of a billion people through a message of hope and opportunity. He is the first African American elected to both the US House and US Senate since Reconstruction, and he has given a series of powerful speeches on racial reconciliation in the United States.
Representative Trey Gowdy was a state and federal prosecutor before running for 7th Circuit Solicitor (district attorney) in 2000. In 2010, Trey was elected to Congress, where he has served continuously since 2011.
Read an Excerpt
The Power of Unlikely Friendships
To watch the introductory video (3–5 minutes) for session 1, go to the Why Reconciliation? link at www.thefriendship challenge.com.
Many Americans say they feel disconnected from one another. Why? We are really good at rattling off our differences: liberal or conservative; millennial or baby boomer; black, white, or brown; Catholic or Protestant; Muslim or Christian; one-percenter, middle-class, or poor; Northern or Southern; and the list goes on. In many ways, we are polarized and divided as a nation. But what about our similarities? Can we list those as quickly and easily? How about some of these:
We all want what's best for our children.
We all want to live in a safe and peaceful community.
We all want opportunities for meaningful work that allows us to provide for our families.
We all want to enjoy a nice meal with good company.
We all want a secure future for ourselves, our children, and our parents.
If we think about it, don't we have a lot more in common with other people than we may have realized? Aren't there more things — and more important things — that unite us than separate us? And how many of the things that separate us are the result of different perspectives about how to reach the same goals?
What if, instead of focusing on our differences, we focused on everything we have in common with other people? What if we pursued intentional relationships across lines of division with the goal of reconciliation? What if we formed genuine friendships based on mutual understanding and respect? The point is not to erase our differences — in a pluralistic society, our diversity makes us who we are — but to make an intentional decision to listen, learn, seek understanding, find points of agreement, and disagree with civility and grace. The road to reconciliation begins with a simple choice to invite someone with whom we differ to have a conversation.
1. When have you witnessed the power of a friendship or a relationship to change things for the better — in your family, neighborhood, or community?
2. Think of someone who, at least on the surface, seems totally opposite from you. It may be someone who has opposing views or a different life experience. What makes you different from each other?
Now describe some of the similarities you have with this same person.
How does identifying your similarities affect your perspective on your differences?
1. As you read the following passage, look for differences between Jesus and the woman at the well.
Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn't baptize them — his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.
He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"
Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."
"But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?"
Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life."
"Please, sir," the woman said, "give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water."
"Go and get your husband," Jesus told her.
"I don't have a husband," the woman replied.
Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband — for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!"
"Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?"
Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."
The woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming — the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
Then Jesus told her, "I am the Messiah!" John 4:1–26
a. List at least three differences Jesus had with the woman at the well.
b. How does the woman use these differences to try to avoid Jesus' request for water?
c. What reasons do you use for trying to avoid connecting with others who are different from you?
2. Read the next part of the passage:
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, "What do you want with her?" or "Why are you talking to her?" The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, "Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?" So the people came streaming from the village to see him.
Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, "Rabbi, eat something."
But Jesus replied, "I have a kind of food you know nothing about."
"Did someone bring him food while we were gone?" the disciples asked each other.
Then Jesus explained: "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest.' But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, 'One plants and another harvests.' And it's true. I sent you to harvest where you didn't plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest."
a. Why were the disciples surprised to find Jesus talking to the woman?
b. Even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus' work and mission firsthand, they were still shocked by his actions. Why do you think this is?
c. Complete the following sentence with the name of someone with whom you differ: My friends or family members would be surprised to see me having a conversation with ________________. Why would they be surprised?
d. What is the "nourishment" that Jesus speaks of here? What does he say is the source of this nourishment?
e. Can you say that your own nourishment comes from the same source? Why or why not?
f. If the "fruit" of the harvest is "people brought to eternal life," what opportunities might we be missing if we do not have relationships with people who are different from us?
3. Read the final portion of the passage:
Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, "He told me everything I ever did!" When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world."
a. Based on these verses, how were the Samaritan people affected by Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well?
b. What kind of impact could you have on the people around you by starting a relationship with someone who is different?
c. Are you ready to reach across lines of division in your life to connect with someone who is different? Explain why or why not, including any hesitations or challenges you may have.
1. As Christians, we believe that Jesus reconciles sinners to a sinless God. Moreover, in order to reconcile us to God, Jesus crossed many lines of division. Though he was the Son of God, he was born into this world to an unwed mother, grew up in meager economic circumstances, and had no settled home as an adult. Though he invested his life in helping other people — teaching them the truth about God and about salvation, healing the sick, casting out demons, and restoring people's lives — he was arrested on phony charges, tried before a biased tribunal, and put to death for crimes he did not commit. Even as he was being executed on a cross between two thieves, he cried out to God to forgive the very people who were killing him. His willingness to forgive even the worst of sinners is the foundation for our willingness to be reconciled to one another — even to those who are very different from us, and to those who may even be opposed to us. Jesus' example of sacrificial love is what enables us to offer grace, extend forgiveness, seek understanding, and pursue reconciliation.
a. How does this perspective affect your decision to initiate a relationship with someone who is different from you?
b. Are there any people in your life who are off-limits? Explain.
2. One of the keys to overcoming problems in our society is finding common ground. We don't have to agree on everything, but wherever we do agree ... let's start there. I (Tim) have found commonality to be a powerful tool. Trey understands the concept of mutually beneficial opportunities as well as anyone I have ever met, especially in leadership. His lifestyle reflects what we're talking about. One of the reasons Trey and I have been able to have some frank discussions about problems, challenges, and obstacles — and overcome them very quickly — is that we have intentionally sought to find common ground. No matter what differences we may have with another person — social, racial, political, spiritual, ideological — if we will look for something we have in common, or something we can admire or emulate in the other person, we can always build on that.
a. Do you agree or disagree that there is always something we have in common with other people that we can build on? Explain.
b. Why do you think it is sometimes easier to focus on our differences than on what we have in common?
c. Think specifically about the person or group with whom you most need to reconcile. How can starting with common ground open a pathway for frank discussions about problems, challenges, and obstacles?
3. In Unified, we discuss our different perspectives on the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Do you recall your first thoughts when you heard about the tragedy? Did you talk about it with anyone? Did the shootings affect you in any way? Why or why not?
4. In Washington, on the day after the shootings, there was a massive prayer vigil on the Capitol grounds. People of every background and political persuasion gathered to pray. It was beautiful and compelling to see the emotional boundaries lifted, to see people come together to comfort one another. It reminded me (Trey) of all that is good about America. But why does it take a tragedy for us to come together so beautifully? Why must we face a calamity before we will join hands, pray, and seek healing?
Discuss your responses to these two questions.
5. I (Tim) have always been impressed by what I call the "aftermath mentality." As Americans, we are so good at treating each other as individuals and family after a crisis. Think about 9/11. Think about hurricanes and other natural disasters. It is amazing to see how people will pull together to help, across all barriers and boundaries, when something bad happens. But I would like to see us develop an aftermath mentality without the crisis. Maybe we can avoid a future tragedy if we will act like the American family we are without waiting for an event to ignite that response.
What steps can we take to develop an "aftermath mentality" before there is another crisis?
6. How do suffering and tragedy affect our willingness and ability to pursue reconciliation? Do they help or hurt? Explain.
7. How does the kind of forgiveness modeled by the families of the victims of the Charleston shootings factor into reconciliation? What or who needs to be forgiven, corporately or individually, as part of your effort to pursue reconciliation with someone with whom you have differences? In other words, is anything blocking you from pursuing a relationship with someone in the "other camp"?
RECONCILIATION IN ACTION
1. What are some of your own prejudices or fears that you may need to confront and overcome in order to pursue a relationship with someone who is different from you?
2. What steps can you take to start a relationship across a line of separation in your life — an intentional relationship trending toward reconciliation? What are some of the challenges you may face? Who can help you overcome these challenges?
3. Set a date to attend an event that will help you connect and explore reconciliation with someone who is different from you. This is only a first step. You simply want to get out and see how it feels to be with someone from your "other" group as you work to develop further steps to build bridges and find common ground. How could attending a church service or a social function with someone across a line of division help you both begin to reconcile your differences?
4. After the event, write down how you felt. Were you surprised by the meeting? Did you feel awkward, or were you comfortable? How did the person or group receive you? What things did you discover you had in common?
Excerpted from "The Friendship Challenge"
Copyright © 2018 Timothy Scott and Harold Watson Gowdy III.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Session 1 Why Reconciliation?
The Power of Unlikely Friendships 1
Session 2 Creating Rapport
Connect on What You Have in Common 17
Session 3 Establishing Credibility
Begin to Trust 31
Session 4 Problem-Solving
Agree on What's Missing the Mark 41
Session 5 Building Bridges
Toward a Brighter Future 53
Session 6 Go Forth!
Live it Out 65
About the Authors 77