Yesterday I met a man, a hero, and he shared a true story that makes me want to wring somebody’s neck.
The man had retired from 20 years service as an aviator for the US Coast Guard. He’d held a stellar career, one of awards and commendations. And he’d fought off the effects of post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing many tragedies at sea. He didn’t go into details, but he did mention the day he watched a giant wave sweep over an overcrowded boat of Haitian migrants. One minute the boat was there, hanging on. Then it was gone.
Search and rescue has its victories. Its defeats, however, sear memories into the brain like a hot cattle iron.
But this story isn’t about the tragedies at sea. It’s about catastrophes in the human heart.
Near the last day of his service to the Coast Guard, the man stopped at a store wearing his full uniform adorned with the medals and ribbons that spoke of sacrifice and honor. A woman, a senior citizen, randomly hugged him and repeatedly thanked him for his service. He was moved. He felt special.
Just days later, he donned an orange apron and started work at a Home Depot, an interim paycheck while he figured out his next move. He planned on going back to school but hadn’t started classes yet.
A customer asked for help. Her expectations unmet, she boiled over. She chewed him up and spit him out, complaining bitterly and leaving a cloud of disgust in her wake.
He recognized her instantly, but she was unaware.
She had hugged him the week before. Or rather, she had hugged his uniform.
Jesus has something to say about her. And about us.
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?
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? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:1–7, NIV
How do we treat our server at a restaurant? The housekeeper at the hotel? The janitor in the school hallway? The guy in the orange apron?
Watch it. We’re standing on holy ground, where heroes and angels tread.
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