I catch myself far more often than I used to but still not often enough.For instance, tonight I had to take back a few items to Wal Mart and I noted that the young man who put the stickers on my returns was nice and polite but not the sharpest pencil in the pack. The lady that rang up my credit was an older lady who didn't have nice clothes and was missing a number of her front teeth. I've caught myself resenting that person in the checkout line who paid for her groceries with food stamps and then I noted the junk she was buying and resented her for using tax dollars to buy more garbage than good, nutritious food assuming that she even understands such distinctions. I've seen (more than once) an African-American driving an expensive automobile and immediately assumed that he/she/they couldn't afford that much car and had no business buying it. I've been far too guilty far too often of being arrogant, graceless, proud, conceited, prejudiced and judgmental. In short, those too-man-moments in my life have betrayed my depravity and dishonored my Savior. I've been anything but Christ-like and if unbelievers could read my mind on those occasions they would run from "my brand" of Christianity which, truly, wasn't Christian in the first place.
So Al Baker's most recent article was a good reminder to me that I must be constantly vigilant to remember that I am what I am by the grace of God. I had nothing to do with my circumstances at birth, the educated, middle-class family I grew up in, the education that was afforded me and all the other blessings and privileges I've had in my life. The Lord could have ordained that I be born to a welfare mom who never graduated high school, was left by her boyfriend to raise me as best she could and made peanuts cleaning offices in the middle of the night - or much worse. I could have been born in Tanzania or Mongolia or to atheist parents in Paris. Who am I to pass judgment on those less fortunate that I have been? Who am I to treat anyone with an air of disdain? Who am I to think that I'm better than this guy or that woman? Who am I but a sinner saved by grace through no merit of my own? Who are you? Who are we, collectively, as a church? Would that lady missing her front teeth and poorly groomed feel comfortable in our worship services? Would we go out of our way to make sure she felt warmly received and genuinely welcomed or would she feel conspicuous and out of place?
In my previous pastorate there was a medical doctor who never wore a tie or suit to Sunday services because, he told me, in his previous church everyone looked like they were dressed to the nines. Nothing really wrong with that especially if the motive is to dress your best in honor of the Lord. But in the doctor's case he had a patient that he knew needed the Lord. She was poor so when the good doctor invited her to come to his church for worship she declined. She said that she didn't have the proper kind of clothes to come to "a church like that." Wow! Her statement crushed him. How did she know that the church he attended would not be a place that she would feel comfortable visiting? And how unlike the reputation of Jesus. The publicans, prostitutes and pimps (just to name a few categories) wouldn't dream of stepping foot into a synagogue but they thought nothing of inviting "the Son of Man" to their homes for supper. How unlike Jesus I am. Al just reminded me and I'm in his debt.
So now I'll let my dear brother write for himself...