I debated whether to write this blog given the time-sensitivity of the story, but in light of Good Friday I feel at liberty to do so.
This past week, United Flight 3411 with service from Chicago to Louisville experienced a turbulent pre-flight exchange between a passenger and some police officers when he refused to give up his seat to a crew member. Many have seen the shocking video whether through the news or social media.
Before I go any further, let me first say that I was disheartened at how the situation went down and the force that was used to eject the patron (Dr. Dao) from the seat. It’s amazing that something like that happened for a routine flight. Second, I don’t know the whole story. Sure, I’ve seen media reports and news casts that have discussed it, but I wasn’t there, so I don’t know every detail.
Now that’s out of the way, I do believe there is a deeper story when we probe the scenario with the information we do have. And it is the tale of three seats.
The tale of three seats is one of inconvenience.
The first seat is the patron (Dr. Dao) who was physically removed from his seat. He was already on the plane and was fully ready to get home because he had work to do the next day. The compensation vouchers United was offering him wasn’t enough to inconvenience him. Rather than getting out of his seat and talking to his lawyer, he chose to sit and let them physically remove him.
The second seat is the patrons who witnessed the entire ordeal go down. Once again, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what happened and how things were communicated. But I have some experience with an overbooked flight. In my experience, the airline came on the intercom stating that they had an overbooked flight and that they were accepting volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a monetary voucher to be used at a later time. I could be wrong, but I am sure something like that happened. And when there were no volunteers they started randomly selecting passengers.
For argument sake, let’s say they didn’t do that. Let’s say that they by-passed asking for volunteers and went straight to random selection. After the lengthy exchanged with the Dr.; after the threats from the officers; and during the physical altercation, it seems to me, that another passenger would have had enough and stood up and offered their seat. But from the information we have, that didn’t happen. Maybe it did, but I haven’t read or heard an account of that happening.
Once again, it seems the amount of compensation United was offering nor the awkward altercation with the Doctor was enough for any other passenger to be inconvenienced and give up their seat.
The third seat is the airline industry and the employee that needed the seat in which the Doctor sat. Once again, I don’t know the entire story (and yes this is a theme for me in this blog) nor do I know why the four employees (or crew members) needed a seat. What I do know is that both United and the crew member weren’t willing to be inconvenienced.
There we have it. The tale of the three seats is one of inconvenience. This story exposes how our culture loathes being inconvenienced.
Our cultures’ disdain for inconvenience exposes the raw reality that as human beings we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.
In short, we don’t want anyone else controlling us—because we might not like what they ask us to do. And if we do offer to inconvenience ourselves, it is usually for someone we know, love, respect, or work for. We might even be inconvenienced if our hearts are moved with compassion for someone in a tough predicament.
But by in large, we would rather anchor our souls to convenience even to the point of being uncomfortable rather than relinquish our rights to inconvenience and avoid a situation that might make everyone uncomfortable.
Enter Good Friday:
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians set aside to remember Jesus—their Savior who was nailed to a wooden, splinter-filled cross for the sin of the world. When you think about doing things that are convenient, going through horrific torment and being nailed to a wooden-cross almost naked for all of Jerusalem to see doesn’t make the cut. In fact, it is the exact opposite—it is super inconvenient.
In Philippians 2 Paul writes the following,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The cross speaks of how Jesus inconvenienced Himself—how He gave up His comfort, His seat, and His life—so that humanity might be saved. We must remember, Jesus didn’t have to do what He did. Paul says, in the passage quoted above, that Jesus was God. Yet, for our sake He didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Rather, He chose to yield up His life, empty His life, in exchange for our salvation.
As believers who cast our minds to Calvary as we commemorate Good Friday as the day Jesus substituted His life for us by hanging on an old rugged cross, let us also not forget that three days later (as we will celebrate Sunday) He rose victoriously from the grave. Therefore, because He is risen, because He is alive, because He lives through us (through His Spirit), let us—as Paul encouraged believers—have the same mind as our King. Let us be willing to be inconvenienced for the glory of God and the good of others.
Being willing to be inconvenienced may mean we give up our airline seat to someone else. It may mean that we invite that friend to Easter service with us this coming Sunday. It may mean we give up an hour each week and serve our church in some way. It may mean that we commit ourselves to a small group. It may mean that we go out of our way to make things right with our spouse. It may mean that we give up some of the luxuries of life so that we can direct more finances to advancing the mission of God. It can also mean a host of other things.
In closing, I pray for all involved on Flight 3411 and especially Dr. Dao and his recovery. I also hope that we can learn from this tragic event. And one of those things I hope we learn is that the tale of three seats reminds us of how much our culture hates being inconvenienced. Yet, in light of our culture’s resistance to inconvenience, let us be also reminded of Good Friday.
Good Friday reminds us how our Savior and King—who knew no sin—over two-thousand years ago inconvenienced Himself by being nailed to a tree for us to be raised to life with thee.
May those who follow Jesus, be willing to follow in His footsteps by relinquishing our convenience and rights in order to live for the glory of God and the good of the world.