Luke 14:10 (NIV) – But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
When we first joined our church, we had no idea that a lot of important people were members. What drew us to our place of worship was the unpretentious attitude of our pastor, his availability to everyone and his willingness to greet everyone he encountered. Most important of all was his dynamic teaching of God’s Word – the whole truth.
It’s normal for us to attend church and see celebrities, local and national political figures, sports stars, and community leaders. World renowned gospel artists stop by, often treating us to impromptu concerts. Military and law enforcement personnel or business executives worship right next to doctors, lawyers, teachers, and stay at home moms. We’re not limited to a single race because ethnic diversity is something that is celebrated.
When it comes to seating, we never worry about “our seats.” We remain flexible – sometimes sitting close to the pulpit on the main floor. Other times we sit up in the balcony. I like sitting in the balcony because I have a great vantage point.
I’m not so sure that I’ll think of the balcony’s view in the same way – ever again.
Why? Although I live in Los Angeles and have met celebrities – both at church and outside of any church related function, the majority of them have been kind, friendly and inviting.
With this background, it is easy to imagine my horror when I observed a celebrity’s wife abusing her power.
She waltzed into church late, right before the pastor got up to speak. She stood in the aisle near the front of the church and refused to take the seat the usher offered her, which was a few rows back. Finally, the usher whispered to the man sitting on the aisle and gestured to the empty seats behind him. He nodded, grabbed his things and moved.
The celebrity’s wife nodded and smiled at the usher, sat down, slipped off her sunglasses and gave a small wave to the pastor’s wife.
I was shocked because her husband is an A-list celebrity. We’ve seen him sit all around the sanctuary, including in the balcony!
A few months after that incident, this same woman was a guest on a Christian TV talk show. She looked just as beautiful and glamorous on TV as she did in person. But it saddened me when I heard her begin to give her testimony. She talked about her many blessings and about all the opportunities that were coming her way; about all that she was doing for the poor and those less fortunate than her; how she loved everyone; how she never abused her position in society to do good and to serve others; how she was blessed to have a servant’s heart.
All I could think about was the Sunday morning when she pulled her VIP card. I wondered if the person she uprooted from their seat was watching the same show on “Christian TV.” Were they calling her a hypocrite? Were they shocked and appalled that the words coming out of her mouth did not match the actions she had taken?
Had they told their family and friends about the incident? What did the people sitting near them that day at church think? What type of reputation did our church have now? Were we all labeled hypocrites and phonies?
This whole matter made me realize that our everyday actions, decisions, and choices matter, even though they are small. It’s those moments we think of as insignificant that have the potential to ruin our testimony for Christ. I never want to look at someone else in judgment because I’m capable of doing so much worse.
I’m reminded that a prideful spirit and attitude can strike any one of us, even when we believe we are in the center of God’s will (Philippians 2:3-5). And while her actions disturbed me, I’m also aware of my need for mercy and grace, which causes me to utter a prayer for her as well as for myself.
Prayer: Father, let us love not in word only but with our actions and deeds. Let us not think more highly of ourselves than we should think, but let us esteem others more highly than ourselves.