Not too long ago, I spent five years doing missionary work.
It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
While I spent most of my time there with the local people, it was common for other expats (foreigners living abroad) to gather together.
The area I lived in had a number of these foreigners.
Some, like me, were also doing missionary work.
However, since the country I was in does not allow missionaries, all foreigners were there for a another reason.
My official title in that country was English teacher.
It was at this place that I met two younger men.
Both were just out of college.
The first described himself as agnostic and had a laid back attitude.
The second described himself as an evangelistic atheist.
Now, one would think given our different backgrounds, we would have butted heads.
However, that was not the case (at least not always).
You see, all three of us had something in common: we loved to play games.
At least once a week, we would get together and play a board game, card game or video game.
Yes, we argued over government policy; yes we argued over religious belief; yes, we argued over cultural differences; but when we got together to play a game, all those things just never seemed to matter.
It didn’t just stop with the games.
We got together to celebrate birthdays; would help each other out when one of us got sick; would share in meals together; and would even introduce the locals to some western festivals together.
Then, like all things, it came to an end.
One by one, we all went back to our native countries for various reasons.
I often think about those two wondering what they are doing now.
Did I have an impact on them? Did they have an impact on me?
Perhaps in some ways these are true, but I doubt I will ever know.
However, I learned an important lesson from these two: no matter how different you are from someone, you can always get along.
Here, the Bible has said quite a bit on the subject of getting along.
When it comes to believers, there should “be no divisions among you,” (1 Corinthians 1:10), and “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith,” (Galatians 6:10).
As Christians, we do this because it is “the law of Christ,” (Galatians 6:2), and we as believers should “be in the mindset of Christ,” (Philippians 2:5).
But what does the Bible say about getting along with non-believers?
Maybe you have heard that by hanging around with someone who is different from yourself is likely to influence you.
Well, that is true.
Environments do shape beliefs.
The Bible does warn against that as well.
As Paul writes in Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump.”
It is why believers are told to focus on their faith.
As stewards to God’s word, we need to share that word for the whole world to hear.
It is in this way, we are told to “look towards the interest of others,” (Philippians 2:3).
It is also why we should “strive to have peace with all,” (Hebrews 12:14), and “serve one another with love,” (Galatians 5:13).
Local statistics say Warrensburg is about 40% religious with 99% being Christian affiliated.
If this is true, that means most people in our little town hold no religious belief.
Can you imagine what this town would be like if 40% of the town ignored the other 60% because they believed they couldn’t get along?
So to the 40% I say this: love them just like Christ loves them.
Greet them by their names, chat with them in your gym, ask them about their families in the market lines and “make the most of every opportunity,” (Ephesians 5:16)
To the 60% I say this: give us a chance to love you, we may surprise you.
Perhaps nobody’s mind will be changed about anything, but I bet if we get along we would all be a better Warrensburg.