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Can we love someone we find unloving? Galatians 5:13-14 says that we are given freedom to serve one another in love.


Whenever I take a trip I come home with lots of stories that come out of the things I see and the people I meet. Here is a story from the last trip to highlight this point about loving one another.


Story: I love my family. It takes no effort. My heart beats smoothly and easily with joy and love to them. As I left my home early Sunday morning, June 29, I left with a warm glow in my heart. My wife and I had babysat my 2 grandchildren on Saturday. As I explained to my 4 year old granddaughter that I would be taking a trip on an airplance she responded out her recent experience of taking a plane trip to Hawaii. “Grandpa, you’ll get a snack.” And so I thought often of her and the expressions and words she had shared with me as I traveled on Sunday. I had pulled 2 candy bars out of the cupboard to put in my travel bag. She saw them and asked me why I was taking 2. “Grandpa, you can’t eat both of them at the same time.” This was when she told me I would get snacks on the plane.


The day of travel was very difficult. I had all of my flights cancelled for that Sunday. American Airlines called me at 1:15am in the morning to tell me that my 7am flight was cancelled. It took some doing but I was rescheduled on an Alaska flight to Denver. When I arrived in Denver I was to take an American Flight to Chicago. The screen told me that flight was cancelled. I waited all day to get on a Frontier Airlines flight to Indianapolis. But I had to sit in the Denver airport all day. Finally I boarded that Frontier airlines at 8pm. All I wanted was to get to my destination in Indianapolis. I sat in Row 3 in the center aisle seat. A young man of about 25 sat down in the seat directly in front of me. He was not the kind of guy you want anywhere near you when you travel. He talked loudly to anyone and everyone near him. His comments were crude and crass. I was glad he wasn’t in my line of sight because that meant he wasn’t talking to me. Was he on drugs? Drunk? Everyone was in their seat but the door to the plane had not yet been shut. The pilot’s door to the cockpit was still open and we could see the pilots sitting doing whatever they do as they go through their checklist.


This young man did something very unwise. He took a comb out of his pocket and leaned out into the aisle and pointed it toward the cockpit as if it was a gun and said loudly, “Bang, Bang, I got those pilots dead in my sights.” Yes you heard me right. The whole section went silent. He didn’t stop with that either. He said that if he were a terrorist he could take over the cockpit. A man in front of him turned around and told him he better stop this stuff but that only encouraged him to get louder. He began to say crude comments about this man. The man got the stewardess and thus began a rather interesting conversation. She then went and got the pilot. The pilot tried to calm him down. The pilot left. The man started up again. Finally a lady called for the pilot to come back and demanded that this man be removed. Thereupon the pilot called for security to come on the plane. It was at this point that the man must have realized that he had gone too far. He slumped back and said, “OK. I won’t say another word. I will just go to sleep.” But it was too late for that. Security entered the plane and told him to get his bag and he was escorted off. Do you know what we all did? We clapped and hooted. I was genuinely happy to see him go. It would have been a long flight to Indianapolis with that jerk sitting in front of me.


I settled back to relax and read as I flew to Indianapolis. It was several minutes later that it happened. I don ‘t remember what I was doing when it happened. Maybe I was thinking about my next sermon. But suddenly I had a touch from God. It was one of those moments when you sense that God has tapped you on the shoulder and a thought comes rushing in. Do you know what thought pushed into my brain? “Cliff, you didn’t pray for that man that was kicked off the plane.”


My response was normal, I think. “No. I didn’t. He was a jerk and deserved everything that happened to him.”


When the next thought came I knew it was from God. “You know how much you love your granddaughter!” I responded that I did love my granddaughter. God said, “I love that man that much.”


And I was taken aback. And I felt a blush of embarrassment. Of course I should have prayed for that man. But I had been caught up in the normal reactions of a normal human guy sitting on a plane being harassed by a less than lovable man. But God has set me free by his grace and love. He has forgiven me. He has changed my perspective about life. He has asked me to love others – even when they are unloving.

I give you this story and this verse in Galatians to challenge you and to challenge me. Freedom in Christ includes love to others.


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