Are You a Respecter of Persons?
Posted by Joel Osteen
One day when I was in my early twenties, I was in the airport traveling back home to Houston. I had had a very long work week and was very tired. I couldn’t wait to get on the plane and just lay my head back and relax. We finally boarded the plane, and I had a whole row to myself. But right before they closed the door, an elderly gentleman got on and came over and sat down next to me. He was the friendliest, kindest, most talkative person in the world. In fact, all he wanted to do was talk! Normally, I enjoy visiting, but on this day, I just didn’t feel like it. I was so tired. So every opportunity I could, I tried to end the conversation. I got my magazine out and acted like I was reading, hoping he would take the hint. He kept talking. I closed my eyes, laid my head back like I was going to sleep. He kept talking. I started to watch the movie. He kept talking. This was twenty years ago—I think he’s still probably talking! Through all of this, I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t disrespectful, but I wasn’t very friendly either. I didn’t engage in the conversation. I just nodded my head every once in a while.
The plane had to stop in Dallas. He said, “Well, I sure enjoyed talking to you, but I’m going to have to get off here.”
Finally, I thought I could get some rest. But right before they closed the door to continue on to Houston, one of the most famous basketball players in the world got on the plane. He’s in the Hall of Fame and one of my favorite players. He came over and sat right in that same seat next to me! It’s funny…all of a sudden, I wasn’t sleepy anymore. I was wide awake and ready to talk. I smiled at him and said, “How’s it going?” He didn’t say a word. I thought he didn’t hear me. I smiled bigger and said it louder, “How’s it going?”
He looked at me and said with the biggest snarl, “Not very good.”
He might as well have said, “Kid, you bother me, and I’m going to punch your lights out.”
That next hour he never said a word, never gave me the time of day, and didn’t even look in my direction. When we got off the plane I thought, “Fine. I never did like you anyway!”
Here’s my point: I was ready to talk because there was somebody I thought was important, somebody I was interested in. I had no problem giving him time and energy because of who he was. But the fact is, in God’s eyes he isn’t any more important than the elderly gentleman I was sitting next to earlier. I wonder what would have happened if I would have given that man the same time, energy and enthusiasm. There’s no telling how God could have used that interaction.
I’ve heard it said that the way you can tell how mature you are is by how you treat people you don’t think can do anything for you. We can all be kind to the boss. He may give us a promotion. We can all be friendly to the cheerleader at school, to the guy that plays on the football team. If they like us, everybody will be our friend. That’s easy. But if we’re going to be like Jesus, we’ve got to learn to treat everyone with the same respect. Jesus said, “When you do good to the least of these, you’re doing it unto Me.” Let’s reach out to others and give them the respect, attention and enthusiasm Jesus deserves. Show them kindness and love knowing that it honors Him and leads to everlasting reward.