Yesterday God threw a pop quiz at my heart. Our senior pastor was out of town, so I was speaking at our 8 am service, which I only do a half-dozen times a year. I was anxious, and wanted to make a good impression.
Two problems: First, the text was about Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:29-51), a topic I’m still growing in my understanding of. Second, my anxiety bubbled over into the sermon to the point that I was making jokes that weren’t funny and following them with the always powerful: “I thought that was funny.” Ouch.
The service ends, and even though people are kind at the door (not even one, “Don’t worry, you’ll get better!”, which is my all-time favorite deflating compliment), I’m looking for a way to redeem my effort.
The 8 am service is the most (*ahem*) mature of our three morning services, so the couple in their 20’s stood out as unusual. I see them over by the coffee cart and make a beeline over there, hoping to do some good pastoral schmoozing and help them feel welcome. After talking with them for a moment or two about their new move to our community, their newlywed-ness, and our church, I’m interrupted by someone else.
Slightly irritated (“These are new, young, cool people to our church!”), I turn around to see an older woman in our church who has some mental delays asking me to pray for her.
Pop quiz: Who’s more important to you, Bob, the young and beautiful or the older and more difficult?
Let’s just say that my prayer was short. I didn’t brush her completely off, but I didn’t throw my whole heart into it, either. By the time I finished, the young couple was gone.
James 2:1-4 says,
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Every day I’m told to show favoritism by the culture around me. Certain people are more attractive, younger, older, thinner, stronger, funnier, or smarter, and therefore more deserving of my time and respect. Jesus is different though.
As James continues in verse 5:
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
I hope the cool, attractive people come back. I need to be surrounded by fellow beautiful people (hey, don’t laugh!). But God calls people from every IQ, every income bracket, and every store in the mall, from the Big and Tall to Forever 21 to Wal-Mart to Nordstroms. May we never appoint ourselves as judges.