On a recent flight back from Haiti, two talkative men sat down next to me in my exit row seats. They were followed by an eager male flight attendant who immediately told the guy seated next to me that he recognized him. He turned out to be Misha Collins, the star of the TV show Supernatural (he played the angel Castiel) as well as numerous other appearances on multiple shows including 24 and ER.The other guy currently starred on some show on the Discovery Channel.
I immediately apologized for not recognizing either of them, as they had a small entourage traveling with them and I could tell they were “somebodies.” They were very gracious about it. (The guys had spent a week in Haiti with some friends and fans working in an orphanage. Good for them!)
But the steward made up for my lack of excitement. He was literally giddy over meeting the two actors and proceeded to dote on them for the entire flight. He basically turned our coach, three-seat exit row into a first class row. Well, at least two of the seats became first class–Misha’s and the other guy’s. The steward brought them warms cookies, free drinks, extra meals from first class, even the little warm towels so they could wipe their hands. And with every trip back to our row, with every set of goodies he brought to them, he had to hand them over me to his two newest friends. It was like I didn’t even exist. Not once in the three-hour flight did the steward even acknowledge me. After a while, it got to be kind of funny.
Now please understand, I don’t fault the steward for giving them special treatment and I don’t fault the two movie stars for excepting it; and again, they were gracious the entire time. That flight attendant is probably used to seeing celebrities on his flights and giving them special treatment. In fact, he’s probably encouraged to. No big deal. I certainly wasn’t offended.
But the dichotomy between how I was treated and their treatment got me thinking about Christians and the Church and how we’re often just as guilty of giving “important people” special treatment:
- We cater to people who can help us get ahead
- We clamor to be seen in the right circles and known by the right people
- We name bricks or buildings after folks who can give enough money to be noticed
- We grant some pastors, authors, and Christian musicians celebrity status, as if they’re somehow better and more important that the rest of us
- And we do so, quite often, while ignoring the very folks Jesus called us to serve
And so, I’d like to offer a few statements to all of us who follow Jesus by way of reminder that there are no classes, levels or special status for anyone in the faith:
- There is only one celebrity in Christianity, and he died on a cross
- There are no “important” Christians, only slaves to Jesus
- There is no such thing as a powerful church member, only servants
- Rich people and well-known people shouldn’t be treated any differently by Christians than the homeless, the orphans and the poor
- Jesus elevated the “least of these” and warned to rich to learn how to grieve, as their respective places would ultimately be switched.
My experience on the flight reminded me that as a Christian and as a leader I can’t cater to the cool or serve the celebrities any more that I pursue the poor. To do so violates the very heart of the Gospel we proclaim.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby 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? James 2:1-4