Souls on Board
When the pilot of an aircraft requests the number of souls on board, he does not only refer to passengers but to crew and children riding on laps, as well. “Souls on board” may have its origin from Sea Captains of old counting those aboard the ship. Souls on board give no greater value to any one passenger than another rather counting all souls as equal and cherished. The number of who need assistance at any given time and the number who will need rescuing in an emergency.
How often are people either intentionally or unintentionally selective of whom should receive attention? Does the lonely homeless individual garner less attention than the well-dressed person on the street? Is there an unconscious selection of seating in a theatre towards those who seem to be more “like me” similar and comfortable to sit beside?
When young babies recognize the faces of their parents, they see patterns in the faces that they become comfortable with. They mimic mannerisms on the face. This becomes familial. Children recognize those same traits in close relatives and feel more comfortable with them. “Frequency of exposure -essentially, the more times they see and interact with loved ones like grandparents, aunts, and uncles- plays a huge role in who they are able to recognize.”[i] These people become the “souls on board” to the baby.
When Jesus began His ministry, He chose men to follow Him and involve themselves in ministry. Jesus is the Creator and though culturally he looked and acted like others within his family and community, he was not bound by the selection of those whom he felt familiar. The disciples struggled with this in many situations. They questioned Jesus speaking to and going to the house of Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector. The crowd murmured that Jesus should not “go to the house of a sinner.”[ii] Jesus’ crowd admired him as a great prophet, and he was mixing with a sinner.
When children came to Jesus, He talked to them and held them. The disciples rebuked the parents for bringing the children to Jesus. Jesus was indignant and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”[iii] Jesus was the pilot, and the children, souls on board.
Throughout the gospels we see Jesus speaking to lepers, prostitutes, and people possessed by demons. He walked among them as if they were as familiar as His own human family. Jesus saw no difference in wealth, position, stature, health, or nationality. They were all souls on board.
Christians have a rare opportunity to embrace those who are different from themselves.
Refugees, poor, homeless, and different nationalities. The world is at their fingertips through modern travel and the internet. They can touch almost anyone, anywhere. Jesus had a few short years of ministry and only the miles he could walk. The great commission to carry the gospel throughout the world is readily available today. Who are your souls on board?
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