On the necessity of boundary-crossing friendships for Christian discipleship
Friendship isn’t always given a lot of thought—and lately, it doesn’t get a lot of time and effort, either. But in a world of busy and isolated lives, in which friendships can too easily become shallow, tenuous, and homogeneous, Dana Robert insists that good friendships are a vital and transformative part of the Christian life—a mustard seed of the kingdom of God. She believes Christians have the responsibility—and opportunity—to be countercultural by making friends across cultural, racial, socioeconomic, and religious lines that separate people from each other.
In this book Robert tells the stories of Christians who, despite or even because of difficult circumstances, experienced friendship with people unlike themselves as “God with us,” as exile, as testimony, and as celebration.
Jesus was a friend to his disciples. Through Jesus’s life and the lives of his followers down through the ages, Faithful Friendships shows readers how friendship can become life-changing—and even worldchanging.
Dana L. Robert is Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at the Boston University School of Theology. She has published widely on mission history, world Christianity, and African Christianity, including Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion.
Harriett Olson —United Methodist Women “In a world increasingly starved for close, long-term personal relationships, Dana Robert’s meditation on Christian friendship is a delightful read. She brings her deep knowledge of Christian mission and her own spiritual journey into a reflection about how relationships that seem so unequal to others can be deep and forming friendships that extend across great differences. This work does not take power differentials or cultural boundaries lightly but gives attention to the personal relationships that arise in settings of mission and service in a gentle and appreciative way that may open our eyes and give us language for some of these relationships in our own lives.”
Will Willimon —author of Accidental Preacher “Dana Robert has been that rare combination of renowned scholar and committed church mission leader. In this book, Dr. Robert does a marvelous job of reclaiming the practice of friendship as essential to Christian ethics and church life. I’ve just returned from a bruising at the United Methodist General Conference, full of talk of division and schism. I’m thinking, ‘Dana Robert’s guidance and wisdom, just when we need it. What a gift.’”
Fleming Rutledge —author of The Crucifixion “What a remarkable—and unusual—book Dana Robert has given us! Though esteemed as a scholar of church history and mission, she has ranged far beyond academic categories to explore the deepest human needs and to reflect on the models of friendship she has seen in Christian communities. This is not a sentimental book; her copious illustrations depict Christian commitment across boundaries, often in peril. Preachers and church leaders of all stripes will value the way she has woven biblical and theological insights together with her own warmhearted message. Dana Robert is herself a friend in the church’s need.”
Ken Carter — Bishop, Florida Conference, The United Methodist Church "When we follow Jesus, we discover along the way that God blesses us with the gift of friendship. These relationships, in turn, make a life of faithfulness, hope, and joy possible. Dana Robert is one of our most distinguished missiologists, and in Faithful Friendships, her reflections are deeply rooted in the gospels, in richly varied stories of Christian mission, and in our own need for the diverse gifts of the people God places along our journeys.”
Ruth Padilla DeBorst — World Vision International “Poignant portrayals of sacrificial and joyous, subversive and life-giving friendships. Deep friendships that untie knots of binding nationalism, racial, ethnic and cultural difference and become seeds for societal healing and reconciliation. Robert’s offering is a provocative invitation to all who yearn for God’s goodness in the world.”
Xi Lian — Duke Divinity School “Refusing to be torn apart by wars, revolutions, and systemic injustice and oppression, the individuals in Faithful Friendships manifest their faith and humanity in noble acts of friendship that defies the boundaries of race, nationality, class, religion, and culture. An inspiring read.”
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