So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. (Romans 15:7)

Growing up, my dad stressed to me that a person's true character is revealed in the way he treats people that he feels he doesn't "HAVE to be nice to." My dad would point with disgust to the person mistreating a waiter, gas station attendant, receptionist, or person behind the counter at a grocery store or the dry cleaners. These people, like millions of others, are in the service business. Because they HAVE to serve us, for some reason, many among us feel like that we don't HAVE to be nice to them. Behind the thought is the lingering arrogance that "after all, we are paying them for their service to us."

This social pecking order assumption is despicable when we think about it. The problem is, so few of us think about it. Our bias and social bigotry come out in a myriad of unkind and never examined phrases that center on our comfort.

"They have to earn a good tip if they are going to get one from me!"

"I deserve better service than this."

"They didn't even say 'Thank you.'"

"I wasn't treated with proper respect."

Implicit in these social assumptions is the understanding that I am to be served, I am to be treated with respect, I am to be treated as special, and I am to be appreciated. There is nothing of Jesus' attitude of humility and concern that says, "I am among you as one who serves."

We lived in East Texas in the early 60's. While the Civil Rights Movement was beginning in a few places, it hadn't reached the piney woods where we lived. So when dad let Lester, the black service station attendant, drive his new wife around town in my dad's brand new car, it started the tongues to wagging.

That is the way a person who knows Jesus treats people.
For my dad, Lester had always been kind, fun, and helpful. They had developed a friendship and Lester didn't have a car. He serviced dad's cars with care. So in a simple act of friendship, my dad validated the value of someone largely overlooked or abused in the social pecking order. Why did dad do that? Because he believed that is the way a person who knows Jesus treats people — as friends and equals. (Yes, dad and Lester also became spiritual friends and my dad even preached a time or two at Lester's church.)

No amount of lecturing, pontificating against racial prejudice, or talk about equality could have taught me more than his actions. I was just a very young boy, but I can still see Lester driving by the gas station in my dad's new black car with the red interior. Lester's wife was waving at everyone as he went by and my dad was smiling back with joy as we stood under the cover of the gas station.

I believe my dad was correct. We do reveal our character — or lack of it — in the way we treat those we feel "we don't HAVE to be nice to." If we know Jesus, we know how to treat those kinds of folks — just like Jesus did. After all, every one of us was one of "those kinds of folks" to God, and he gave up everything to make us special, to make us holy, to make us his own. (Go look up the words that describe us before Christ in Romans 5:6-11!)

How can we claim God as our Father and treat others with less respect and kindness than God has used to treat us?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)