by My Anonymous Friend
A few days ago I met with a pastor friend for whose church I have done some work this year. He comes from a very different tradition. In a number of ways his political views are much more liberal than mine. Theologically we are fairly close although our church tradition, polity, and so on, are very different. It has been a fascinating journey for me to develop a friendship with this person. Two days ago my wife and I were invited to join my friend and his wife for a concert. It was a wonderful evening and a good step in the formation of a new friendship for us as couples.
This pastor has endured some unfair treatment from a segment of his church parish. They have slandered him and said very troubling things about him. His reactions have reminded me of what Scripture says about Jesus....."when He was reviled, He reviled not again!" My friend has been very gracious and has been careful not to speak ill of his detractors. When we drove into the church parking lot for the concert, I happened to notice that his car was parked in the very last parking place the farthest away from the church. They were expecting a large crowd and he was thinking of others. This in itself is not a particularly important matter but it is an indication of what sort of man he is. I was touched by this simple expression of charity and concern for others. I have seen the opposite as well where clergy have insisted they have a special parking spot reserved for them as near to the doors of the church as possible.
So why do I mention all this?
As I get older I believe more and more that character is what is most important in a person. I have seen many things over the years and find myself now less and less impressed with persons who are eloquent, flamboyant leaders, prolific authors, in demand speakers at conferences and seminars, and so on. I believe our society honors the wrong things at times. We measure the greatness or value of persons by the size of their parish if they are members of the clergy, by the number of employees, or the annual earnings if they are in business, or by the size of their homes or by the number and type of cars they own. I am less and less interested in these sorts of things. I have found that sometimes these sorts of people are narcissistic, self centered, ungrateful, demanding, and difficult to deal with. I recall a visiting musician/speaker, well known in our area, who was determined to tell me, the pastor of the church where he had been invited to preach, how the service would be conducted. I also recall a well known conference speaker refusing to ride in a certain car to the airport because he really thought he should have a limousine at his service. I was shocked when I observed this personally.
I want to be with people who truly are committed to serving others. I want to be with people who have learned to yield their rights instead of demanding that their rights be granted to them. I sometimes wonder just how God will deal with rewards in heaven. I am guessing some of us might be surprised. Those who were greatly revered and honored here on earth may possibly not be so regarded in heaven. Those who served without notoriety and fame here on earth may perhaps be greatly honored in heaven. I really do not know how all this will work, but I do know that God values faithfulness. In the parable of the talents, the "2-talent" man and the "5-talent" man both received precisely the same kind of affirmation and commendation from the master. Only the man who did nothing with his "talent" received a rebuke. So that is a clue to me.
What do you think? I want to live out my years as a faithful person. I want to be gracious and generous in dealing with people. I hope they see a little of Jesus in me when they observe me. I wish that for you too.