This past Friday, I was waiting in the Regina airport to catch a flight to Calgary. While I was waiting, I was observing an omnious looking young man dressed in leathers and with some threatening looking tattoos adorning most of the exposed areas of his arms. He seemed a bit worked up and I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me have to sit next to him.”
Since the Lord has such a good sense of humour, you likely can guess what happened. I got on the plane and was delighted to find out I had been assigned to the exit row. (I like sitting in the exit row because it has more leg room). The seat next to me was empty as passengers boarded until almost everyone was on. Of course, one of the last passengers to get on was none other than this fellow that I hoped wouldn’t sit next to me. Guess where he sat?
As he took his seat next to the window, he uttered under his breath, “I’m gonna kill my friend!”
Nice to meet you, too!
I said, “Pardon?” And he said, “I’m gonna kill my friend. I’ve never flown before and he KNOWS I’m terrified about flying. He booked the ticket for me and I’m pretty sure he picked the exit aisle for me just to rub it in. I’m gonna kick his ass when I see him.”
Needless to say, the outward appearance of this fellow led me to believe things about him that I should not have assumed. For the rest of the flight (which was only 1 hour), he clutched the arm rests of his seat and stared straight ahead, not once that I could tell, ever looking out the window. No, I didn’t engage him in a deep theological conversation (though maybe I should have?), but I did end up talking to him a bit to help him get his mind on other things. It didn’t take long to become clear to me that his rough, “in-your-face” outward appearance was only hiding a man that had fears and weaknesses like us all.
And to my surprise, as I talked to him a bit further, I found out that he was in bachelor’s of social work program and was interested more in helping people than making money! In fact he actually told me that he knew it was foolish from a financial point of view to go into social work, but that he wanted to do this anyways. In his words, “$%&@ the money!”
Anyways, this little incident became an important illustration for my Sunday sermon on 2 Cor 5:11-21, particularly verse 16: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldy point of view. . . ” As I explained the meaning of this verse, I told this little story to show how easily and regularly we still judge people from a worldly perspective–in accordance to that which we perceive outwardly–rather than from God’s perspective. For indeed, this rough and tumble young man clutching his airplane seat and contemplating how he was going to pay back his friend for what he thought was a dirty trick is a man for whom Christ died (cf. 2 Cor 5:15).
As a post-script to the story, I gave this young man my business card and told him that if he ever wanted to do a theological degree, to let me know. He smiled, took it and said, “Thanks. You just never $%&@-ing know!”
Yes, I just never know…