Mango & Chilli…
I have developed a unique friendship with my neighbour who is a self-professed atheist. As a Christian who happens to be a minister, it is a surprising and unusual friendship. Like mango and chilli, a strange pairing only until you have tasted it. For many of us who follow Jesus the idea of having a friendship with those who do not share our worldview should not be that strange. Jesus lived relating to people from all walks of life. Yet, our world is growing more antagonistic toward unusual pairings. But what if, like mango and chilli, we fear what we have not as yet ‘tasted.’
For some reading this post, who at this point in time think they know where I’m heading, don’t stop reading. My friendship with my neighbour has not culminated in a conversion in either direction. He still holds an atheistic worldview and I still maintain my Christian faith; but we have both grown in our trust and respect for the other. Our conversations are not always about religion, we talk about sports, cancer, tattoos and he even helped me build a deck in my backyard this past summer. When his partner who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago was undergoing treatment, my family and I provided some home cooked meals during her time of recovery. There are days he does not want to talk to me and there are days that I don’t feel like talking to him. Yet, our friendship continues and to my surprise, my affection for him has grown.
I have learned through my experiences of growing up in racially segregated South Africa, that keeping people apart from those unlike them, creates sufficient space to not think of that person as a person. Such distance leaves enough room to dehumanize people we don’t know, making them into whatever the prevailing culture or our fear says ‘they’ are. The space between us and the other is the place where prejudice, hatred, and discrimination has room to grow. Closing the gap between ourselves and people who do not share our faith through friendship is a needed grace; it has been for me. We need others as much as they need us!
In teaching his followers how to live Jesus said: “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”
I encourage you to close the gap and get to know someone unlike you. Not easy to do, but worth it!
 Check out the recipe for a mango salad with chilli powder here: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/mango-salad-chile-lime-salt
 Matthew 5:46-48 CEV