Radiant energy filled Living Word Church that Sunday. Boasting over ten thousand members, it had always been vibrant, but on this occasion it was especially bursting with expectation. Forty-five minutes before the service, the isles were already packed. Today was a momentous occasion.
Today the eccentric, revolutionary Dr. Charles J. Mason, world famous writer and radio speaker, was coming to speak at their church. This was the man whose books and sermons had been translated into scores of languages, whose works had united and empowered believers across the world. Some had even nicknamed him the voice of the modern-day church. Despite all of this, he remained an enigma to most. In fact, this was the first time the doctor had ever made a public appearance.
Finally, the man they had all read and heard was coming into the public eye, and he had chosen their church to visit first! It seemed like everyone was discussing this extraordinary man and his impact on the church of Christ. Even the ushers, who were normally reserved and professional, were joining in the quiet, urgent banter as they waited expectantly for their honored guest. Living Word was the place to be this Sunday.
Suddenly, a surge of excitement went racing through the crowd. Those that were on the outer edge of the huge auditorium had the advantage of being able to peer through the twenty-four glass panels that made up the front doors. A gigantic white limousine had pulled up, and the crowd drew its breath and held it as one. The doors opened and four security guards surrounding a well-dressed, middle-aged man entered the church. The man emanated warmth and pure goodness as he smiled and walked to his seat on the stage. Who else could this be but Dr. Charles J. Mason?
As the music reached a crescendo, and the pastor got up to introduce his esteemed guest, a man dressed like a homeless vagrant quietly slipped in. The attention of the ushers was rudely interrupted and drawn unwillingly to this old man who smelled like garbage.
“What is he doing here? Maybe we should throw him out. Oh well, what could he hurt?”
They allowed him to pass. Then, they turned their attention back to where it was naturally drawn, the stage.
By now, the pastor had gotten through recounting the accomplishments of Dr. Mason. His introduction built up to a climax, and with a flourish he said, “And now folks, I present to you Dr. Charles J. Mason!”
The doctor got up slowly, met by an eruption of applause. He approached the pulpit timidly and looking down, apparently gathering his thoughts.
Strangely, the old man in the back began to make his way forward. The people didn’t notice at first. But as he walked resolutely toward the stage, they began to wonder.
“Who was this dirty old man who was interrupting the meeting? What did he want? Was he going to harm Dr. Mason?
Surely anyone, even a dirty bum, would have enough sense not to interrupt the service just before the doctor would speak. The old man walked right up on stage and snatched a microphone from its cradle. The congregation was stunned.
The vagrant began to speak… Everyone recognized his voice.
“I am Charles Mason. This man at the pulpit is a colleague of mine. I apologize for the deception, but I felt that God wanted me to test your true hearts. If I had come to you forthrightly as my colleague has done, I am sure I would have received a warm welcome. But, I came to you as a dirty, smelly beggar, feeling your stares of disdain and hearing your whispers of scorn. I was unnoticed by you until I, the invited guest, ‘disrupted’ your meeting.”
“I believe that God would have me simply tell you that He hates favoritism. Please read the second chapter of James, and meditate deeply on it. You are dismissed.”
With that, Dr. Mason unceremoniously set the microphone down, walked off of the stage and out of the building. The electric excitement had turned to silence. Slowly people gathered their belongings and went home. Others stayed, thinking. This was not what they had expected, but the truth of his simple message had more power than a thousand sermons.
God hates favoritism!
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