I was following several professionally dressed educators into a hotel in a Texas city. It was a bitterly cold December day and we had disembarked from the same shuttle bus and were headed for our rooms.
I know the other men and women were educators at the college and university level by the convention badges they all wore.
One nicely dressed man, about my age, pleasantly held the door open for the others who were on the bus as they entered the lobby. I was just about to thank him for his courtesy when he glanced at me, frowned, jumped in front of me, and let the door swing nearly shut on my face.
There is an alpha male that I, more or less, keep successfully hidden and subdued deep in the recesses of my psyche. Because I am a pastor, it is advantageous to keep the beast on a short leash. My job requires that I be “nice.” Sometimes, however, I have a powerful desire to let it loose. I almost did so in Dallas.
Why did the educator, who previously seemed so considerate and thoughtful, abandon his civility when I approached the door?
Maybe it was that I was in jeans and a black T-Shirt and he thought I was beneath his consideration. Or, perhaps, he saw the Marine Corps logo on my red windbreaker and decided that he wished to express a little disdain. College types, especially liberal types during times of war (ask your local Vietnam veteran) have been known to look down their reading glasses at the military. I do not know why he let the door slam on me.
When I told my wife about the encounter (she who is of the college professor class and was in attendance at the conference), I remarked that if I had been wearing my suit and clerical collar, especially if I were recognizable as a bishop, I bet he would have refrained from slamming the door in my face. She agreed.
Now that I was sensitized to one man’s rude behavior, I began to watch how the educator crowd related to other people during those several days. For the most part, the people were considerate and kind of others. There were, however, a number of exceptions.
There were more than a few of conference attendees who were less than charitable to wait staff, reservation folks, and bellhops. One could almost smell the arrogant superiority, worn like cologne, on some (but certainly not all) of those in business-like, professorial attire who seemed to think it a chore to contend with the common folk.
All of which, oddly, got me to thinking about the birth of Christ. Far from home, with no suitable lodging available, Mary, the wife of Joseph, gave birth to her son in a barn.
Those who were quartered in the finest rooms and living in the most spacious houses would not have given thought to this blue collar family whose child was born amid the sounds and smells and by-products of animals. Had they know of the drama playing out in this Bethlehem stable, most would have not let it disturb their evening.
Songwriters have, for centuries, made much of the irony that the “King of kings and Lord of lords” was born to a poor family in humble and humiliating circumstances.
Later in the life of Jesus, when people of means and power looked with contempt upon people whom they believed to be beneath them, or, when Temple moneychangers took advantage of the poor, they risked the rebuke, even the wrath, of the carpenter’s son who, in the moneychangers incident, fashioned a whip and attacked them. Jesus, after all, was an alpha male, no matter how much artists have attempted to feminize him.
It is a human frailty and a sad characteristic to look at one person as more worthy than another. It is a measure of the smallness of a person when that person looks down on another — or who looks up to another — based upon the appearance or lack of appearance of that “other” person.
It is the person who treats with dignity and respect all men and women, regardless of their mental, physical, social, or economic situations — regardless of their age, their sex, their color, or their nationality — who is a person of true class.
Jesus would have held the door open until all had passed through. He would not have been a jerk.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He is a Marine veteran and is the associate endorser for U.S. military chaplains for his denomination. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]