First-Class Island

A few weeks ago I took my very first, first-class flight. American Airlines, flight 32 from Los Angeles to New York City. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?  The irony is that the flight was the first leg of a trip to Brazil where I was doing mission work for 2 weeks. I confess that I felt a bit more like a tel-evangalist than a regular guy doing some mission work, but I must also confess that it’s not a bad way to start a trip; mission or otherwise.

The free flight was a gift from a church-member who works for American, and was given to help our mission team cut expenses. I happened to be the lucky recipient of her generosity.

I received my boarding pass and easily found my seat as I stepped on to the afternoon flight. 2D was the first seat, in the center aisle. The only seat in the center aisle. I sat down and took in my surroundings.  My first thought? – “Where are all the people?”  My second thought – “2D makes me feel like I’m the only person on this flight!” Seriously. Those were my thoughts.

My center seat was set a few inches further forward than the seats on my right and left, and I was isolated from them by an aisle on each side. The seat behind me was set back at at least 5 feet. Compared to flying coach (where I have been every flight of my life thus far), I was an island. And frankly, it was weird.

There was no bumping in to anyone; no shooting pain in my elbow from getting hit by the beverage cart; no “excuse me” from the window seat passenger trying to escape to the bathroom; and no “Are you from L.A. or just visiting?” back-cabin-banter exchanged over the fumbling of seat belts.

That, my friend, is the privilege of first-class. And that, my friend, is the problem with first-class.

Isn’t it funny how the more privileged we are, the fewer people we bump into?  The goal in our lives seems to be away from people, not towards them.  Airplanes are the perfect example. When you’re poor, you don’t fly at all. You stay at home with your family. When you’ve got a little money, you cram everyone into a mini-van and head to the state park with lots of other families. When you hit middle class, you scrape together as much money you can, buy a coach ticket and end up sitting at the back of the plane with screaming babies and other financially strapped middle-class families. Moving up in socio-economic status? Then so does your seat on the plane. Business class, then eventually first-class. The super rich never fly with anyone again – they trade back-of-the-plane for owning-the-plane – flying around the world with no one but servants on board. More privilege, less people.

And the examples of “first-class islands” extend well beyond airline travel. Big promotion at work = big corner office. Higher income = gated community.  As one moves up, he trades the public gym for a private trainer – left-field cheap seats for luxury box – state park picnic for guided safari – public education for private tutors. The more “important” we are, the less people we interact with.

This is exact opposite of the most important person to ever walk the planet.

God the Father left His throne to walk in the garden with his prized creation. God the Son left His spot at the right-hand to become Immanuel, God with us. The Holy Spirit left the Trinity luxury suite to dwell in the lives of every person who calls His name.

This is the incarnation – Jesus, comfortably sitting in first class, gets up and walks to the back of the plane, to join the people He created. And He seemed to find as much comfort and enjoyment grinding it out in coach as He did sitting co-pilot and sipping fine wine with the Father.

There’s never been a King who has initiated as much, or accomplished as much, as Jesus by leaving His first-class island and rubbing elbows with a different class. And because of it, each of us who calls on His name gets a life-changing “bump” to first-class. But when we get there, we won’t be alone.

He asks us to do the same. Leave our seat – head to the back of the plane, and bring the King with us.

As the flight attendant refilled my Dr. Pepper for the 8th time in under an hour, I got more and more excited to leave the tiny little first-class island, and rub elbows with humanity on my mission trip.

Thank you for coming to us, King Jesus. We needed it. We still do. Help us to leave our personal first-class islands to touch and be touched by everyone around us.

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