Our plane landed at DFW airport around 8:30 p.m. one evening this past June. Our flight to Abilene was to board around 10:30 p.m., with our arrival in Abilene scheduled for approximately 11:30 p.m. We were returning from a trip to Cabo San Lucas, where I had officiated for my great-niece’s wedding, backdropped by the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The time came to board the plane, and everything seemed to be as normal as the other three legs of our trip.

The plane was the typical smaller airplane that transported people on short trips from Dallas to Abilene. While waiting for departure, my wife and I noticed that the air conditioning wasn’t working correctly, but we figured it would be better once in flight. After sitting still for 15-20 minutes, the pilot came on the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a little problem to check out, and it will be a little bit before we depart. Thank you for your patience.” We guessed they were there to work on the air-conditioning when we saw a truck drive up.

About the time we were to arrive in Abilene, the pilot came back on the intercom and told us that we were ready to leave DFW. We then began the long journey to the end of the takeoff runway. If you’ve ever been to DFW, you know that this takes several minutes. After ten to fifteen minutes, the plane turns and stops on a side turn-off for several minutes. After waiting several minutes longer, the pilot comes on the intercom. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we still have an issue with the plane, and maintenance is coming out to the plane to check on the problem.” After another 15 minutes, we see a maintenance truck pull up next to the plane. Some time passes before we hear from the pilot once more. “Ladies and Gentlemen, maintenance has informed us that the issue cannot be resolved here, so we are taxiing to a maintenance terminal. Again, thank you for being patient.”

It is nearing 1:00 a. m. as the plane pulls up to the maintenance area. Half an hour later, the pilot comes on the intercom, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have the problem fixed and will proceed to take off.” Five minutes later, the pilot’s voice returns, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are experiencing a hydraulic problem, and it has been decided that the plane is unsafe to fly. We are returning to the main terminal to see if another plane is available. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

We return to the main terminal and disembark. Amazingly, no one complained through the entire ordeal and, upon disembarking, waited patiently for another aircraft to move to the terminal. We went through the boarding process again and arrived in Abilene between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. We were four hours late but thankful that the pilot had taken the time to keep everyone safe.

As I thought about this incident, it reminded me how the main priority of the pilots was not the plane but the safety of the people aboard the aircraft. Being a Christian carries a similar focus. As we live our lives, the priority we face becomes letting people see Jesus living in us. Too often, people claim to be Christian, but their words or actions portray a different story. I read social media posts that put down the church or an individual and wonder what impression this leaves on those who don’t know Christ. Are we conscious of the picture of Christianity we leave in the minds of those who listen to us? 

Years ago, my wife and I went to a restaurant for lunch with a group of fellow “Christians” who were in town for an event at a local university. The service was slow due to the crowds, and one of the men became impatient, complaining to the waitress, becoming loud and obnoxious. It embarrassed everyone at the table, and several apologized to the waitress afterward. The man who had complained left without a word. Unfortunately, I have heard several times that many restaurant servers believe “church people” are the rudest to serve on Sunday. Does this leave the impression that we care for people, or are our priorities misdirected?

The incident with the airplane and pilots reminded me that people become the priority in all situations. As Christians, we must remember our mission, one I learned from a fifteen-year-old girl in my youth group over fifty years ago. She put the “great commission” in simple terms. I asked the group, “What do you want out of life?” She responded, “To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.”

Jesus came to “seek and save the lost.” Like Jesus, our priority should always be to lead people to him. The Word teaches us that we can’t love God if we don’t love His creation, His people. Our words and actions should never cause someone to turn away from Christ. No matter what situation we find ourselves in we must always be conscious of those around us. Our pilot would not leave until he knew the people entrusted to him were safe. The words and actions we leave behind for someone should always be words and actions that lead them closer to Christ. Never forget that we are representatives of the one who brings light to a dark world.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NASB)

Danny Minton is an Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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