We were at the gate in Buffalo, New York, waiting for our flight to board, when we noticed her. She must have come quite early, for she was the first one in the pre-board area, and there were three wheelchairs, including my mother-in-law’s, lined up behind her. She was extremely young to have to be confined to a wheelchair, and I felt compassion for her.
When pre-boarding began, this young lady was wheeled down the jet-way and assisted to the best seat on the plane. I noticed that she immediately took out a book. Now, I always have a fascination for books, and I strained my eyes to see its title: The King of Kings, Jesus Christ. “She must be a Christian!” I thought to myself.
She spent the entire four and half hour trip, reading that book, eating crackers that she received from the stewardess, and drinking Seagrams. I figured that she was so engrossed with her hardback that she didn’t notice that all of her wrappings, crumbs, and even her Seagrams cans fell on the floor underneath her chair. I wanted to ask her if it was a good book, but I never got the chance to do it.
We finally landed at our destination, and while I was busily getting our things together, I heard one of the stewardesses complain: “Can you believe the nerve?”
I turned around, wondering who she was talking about.
“Did you see how quickly she ran out of the plane with all her heavy luggage?” The stewardess asked a handicapped passenger who had been seated next to the young woman.
Still unclear who she was referring to, I focused on their conversation.
“Yeah. How can she pretend to be handicapped when she can carry all those heavy carry-ons and run out of the plane before anyone else gets the chance to!” Replied the frustrated passenger.
My wife joined in the conversation at this point: “I wondered when she made all those trips to the lavatory without asking for assistance, but I just figured that the close quarters on a plane made it easier for her to maneuver without aide!”
“She only pre-boarded in order to have the best seat on the plane,” the stewardess accused.
It finally dawned on me that they were talking about the handicapped passenger who had been reading the book about Jesus. Indeed, she had taken the most handicap-friendly seat.
“I see that all the time,” continued the aggravated stewardess. “Hypocrites who take advantage of the situation, instead of letting passengers in real need have those seats!”
I was puzzled. Had that lady really taken advantage of the situation? Hadn’t she been a “Christian”? But how else could anyone explain the miraculous transformation of her handicapped limbs? She had, indeed, come aboard an invalid, one who needed constant assistance, and somehow, during that “therapeutic” flight, she had transformed into an agile, heavy-weight lifting young woman, who could easily beat the passengers racing off the plane!
This really saddened me. Christians are already looked upon with suspicion, especially with all the frauds out there who pretend to preach the message in order to fill their own pockets. So many pretend to be Christians, yet instead of proclaiming Christ, they further their own interests and end up giving a bad name to the real followers of Christ.
Jesus encountered those in His days as well: “They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues…” (Matt 23:6 NIV); and “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” (Matt 15:7-9 NIV)
Who was Jesus talking about? Who were those hypocrites? They were the ones who were the “pastors” and “elders” of those days. They didn’t worship God, they worshipped themselves! “Everything they do is done for men to see…” (Matt 23:5 NIV)
What a sharp contrast with the real followers of Christ: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24-25 NIV)
A Christian is one who puts Jesus’ interests first and who denies his own selfish impulses. A real Christian’s motto is the same as the one from John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV)
Christianity is all about Jesus! It is not about “I”. The more we think about “I”, the more miserable we are! Only Jesus can set us free so that we can experience real life: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
May our example always be to the glory of God, the One who brought meaning to our life, and may we touch the lives of those who do not know Jesus on a personal level!
Do you want the best seat? What about the person behind you?