I met a lady 12 years ago who was mean as a snake, cursed like a sailor, argumentative, and an atheist. I didn’t think much of her, even considered firing her as I was her supervisor.

After every meeting, she’d walk me out after we spoke and this day was no different. She asked a question that irritated me, and I unleashed a 30-second rampage of which I was not proud. At the end of my rant, I expected a return of her typical obscene verbiage for which I prepared to hear, but she laughed. Then she laughed more. Before long we were both laughing as she told me she didn’t know a Christian had that in them.

Over the next few years, I took her to church with me a few times, and even as she battled a life-ending illness I was the person she turned to daily in the last few months of her life.

I had chosen to distance myself from her because she stood for things that I didn’t agree with, but as I look back I don’t believe our Father in Heaven would agree with my earthly actions. She was His daughter, just as I am His son. I don’t believe He sees her any differently.

I noticed a problem I had. The moment that I realized that a person did not believe, or think like I did, I stopped listening. However, over the years I have been blessed to become more accepting of those whose beliefs differ from mine.

If she hadn’t forced me to be her friend, I would have missed out on a friendship that was priceless.

Even though we disagreed, I subtly introduced her to Jesus Christ. I didn’t force my faith upon her, but I choose to believe that she is sitting with God today watching down upon us.

Do you distance yourself from those whose beliefs are different from yours? Have you talked to someone about Jesus lately?

Rick Stanfield is a syndicated columnist, professor, motivational speaker and author. His latest book is “I Can and I Will.” For more information, visit his website at www.rickstanfield.com.

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