I got in line at the airport yesterday, resigned to endure the long, shuffling wait. It was an international flight, and there were several hundred people queued up waiting to check in. Most wore their boredom and/or irritation plainly on their faces, but they knew there was nothing they could do. This was how things went when you couldn’t pay premium for business or first class seats.
After some time shuffling along, I remembered my more-than-frequent flier card. It sometimes allows me to bypass the long lines and head straight for the VIP desk. But I hesitated to move for three reasons:
1. I wasn’t sure this card would work with this airline.
2. I was afraid to give up my time-earned place in line just in case I was wrong.
3. I was pretty sure I knew what all the other people would think about me if I went ahead of them by moving to the VIP line. (I’ve had a person yell at me on one occasion, but the passive-aggressive typically just make angry remarks under their breath for my benefit.)
I’m sure you would have made the switch immediately, but I had to weigh and reweigh the factors in the balance. This was a life-changing decision. “Stay – Go…..Stay – Go…Staaayy…GO! Go now! Go!” I mentally cattle-prodded my rear end and took a step. After that, the decision was made for me, as the line oozed in to fill the space where my foot had just been. There was no going back; I had forfeited my claim.
I could hear the murmurs and feel the stares as I made my way to the empty VIP line, but I kept my eyes forward and my head held high. When I reached the ticket agent, I apologetically asked, “I can’t come over here if I have one of these, can I?” But to my relief, I was in the right place! Stamp-stamp, bzzzzt-bzzzzt (the universal onomatopoeia for a ticket printer) and I was gone, shaking the cold stares off my shoulder as I headed for the gate. An hour of my life was lost but now was found! Bring the fatted calf!
With all that extra time on my hands, I began to think about how strangely familiar the event had felt. There was a time when I shuffled along in the spiritual economy line when I could have gone right to the VIP desk. It wasn’t that I had earned my VIP status. Jesus (“The” VIP) paid my membership for me. In fact, He paid it for everyone standing in economy, but most of us have learned to be helpless, and we’ve stopped looking for a better way.
We see a few people break away and head toward the VIP desk, but we doubt that it will work for us. Or we have so much invested in our “economy” lives and belief systems that we are too afraid to leave the comfort of the familiar.
What if we step away from the crowd, and we’re wrong? What if what we’ve heard about the VIP line is too good to be true? Won’t we look foolish? Won’t everyone laugh at us or get angry with us for thinking we are better than they are?
Satan knows how easy we are to keep in line. His creates the queue barriers with slender reasons for ropes, because he knows how compliant we are, how willing to follow the crowd. A little fear, a little uncertainty, and we decide “better safe than sorry” and “let’s see what everyone else does.” We take our cue (pun intended) from other people in the economy line as if they were qualified experts; “He looks smart, and he’s not moving” or “She said that she heard the VIP thing was a hoax.”
But as tragic as this deception is, it’s not nearly as bad as the deception Satan works on those who know they are VIPs but continue to walk in economy. I’m not talking about the ones who went back to convince the others to switch; I’m talking about those who are too afraid to trust what The VIP has said to be true.
Jesus has purchased first class tickets for them to lead lives of joy, promise, hope, and incredible, exciting service to Him. But because these riches are spiritual and less obvious than worldly riches, the VIPs in economy march on with the rest, hoping for an upgrade that they can see, touch and spend. They want to believe the promises of Scripture, but they lack the faith to walk in the VIP line.
If more of the VIPs were in the right line, the switch would be much less scary for those still in economy. They want to see that it’s real, that it works, before they step out. But so often they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with VIPs whose lives are no better than their own. To them, it seems like a membership club with no benefits.
“Red Rover, Red Rover, let the VIPs come over.” Jesus paid a lot to get us our upgrade; Let’s walk in it and enjoy it enough that it looks worth having.