Last night, the Duke and UNC rivalry continued with the Tar Heels hanging on at home to get an 82-78 win. This matchup is always a big deal for the players and coaches…and especially for the fans.

I have been a Duke fan since I was a kid, and over the years I’ve experienced a great deal of arguing, debating, taunting, and excuse making between myself and other UNC fans.

In middle school, I remember being one of very few Duke fans…and during college days I had to deal with multiple roommates rooting for the Chapel Hill team.

What I’ve come to realize is that not everyone I meet is a Duke fan, and that I can still be friends with loyal UNC supporters.

Case in point, I sat at a table watching last night’s rivalry with a combination of cheering interests – UNC fans…Duke fans…and neutral fans. Guess what? Despite Duke’s unfortunate loss, everyone hugged it out at the end of the evening.

Even though we’re on different sides, our friendship is built on a solid foundation that enables us to enjoy reasonable conversation and have fun together while our favorite teams battle it out.

Of course, I like to watch Duke games with only Duke fans, but last night proved that it’s possible to embrace fans who have chosen a different allegiance.

This is a great illustration of how we can interact with people who don’t have the same belief system as we do. When we struggle in conversations about our faith, we can follow the example Jesus setby showing grace and love to those still searching.

Fellowshipping with other believers and spending time with “only Duke fans” is important for us to be challenged and encouraged in our walk with God.

However, understanding how to interact with those not following Jesus is crucial if we want to have passionate discussions about our faith, and be able to hug it out even after we disagree.

We don’t want to “talk trash” or “taunt” or dismiss anyone from the “other team,” as that kind of behavior will only push them further away. Instead, we need to make sure we don’t miss out on the opportunity to explain the reason for our hope and the power of Jesus.

By being good listeners and level headed about what we believe, others will be drawn to us and see Jesus shine through us. We will end up having reasonable conversations and enjoying our time together.

Paul encourages us in Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT), “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

The rivalry between Duke and UNC is fierce, but pales in comparison to the good and evil…and life and death battles that rage around us. We all need Jesus, so let’s do our part to love others and point them to Him.

I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack this!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I recognize that not everyone knows You, so please use me to attract others to Jesus. I pray I’d have thoughtful and loving conversations with others, while revealing to them the reason for my love and hope. I pray they’d see You in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.