Cancelled Insurance?

I'm glad the letter wasn't sent from heaven. It came from my automobile insurance company, my former automobile insurance company. I didn't drop them; they dropped me. Not because I didn't pay my premiums; I was on time and caught up. Not because I failed to do the paperwork; every document was signed and delivered.

I was dropped for making too many mistakes.

The letter begins by politely telling me that my record has been under review.

We have secured Motor Vehicle Records which indicate a speed violation by Max Lucado in December and January and a not-at-fault accident by Dennlyn Lucado in December. Additional records indicate additional speed violations by Mr. Lucado in April and by Mrs. Lucado in December of the next year.

Now, I'm the first to admit that Denalyn and I tend to get a bit heavy-footed and careless. In fact, that is the reason we have insurance. Aren't the blemishes on my record an indication that I am a worthy client? Wasn't the whole insurance business invented for people like me? Don't my fender-benders and bumps put food or. Some adjuster's table? If not for my blunders, what would the actuaries actuate?

My initial thought was that the company was writing to congratulate me on being a good customer. Maybe they're writing to invite me to a banquet or to tell me I've won an award, I thought.

The letter continued, documenting other secrets of our past:

Our records indicate that on November 18 we paid to fix damage to another vehicle when Max Lucado backed into another car in a parking lot.

The twofold appearance of the word another alarmed me. "Another" vehicle. "Another" car. Somebody is counting! Perhaps I need to urge them to read I Corinthians 13:5, "Love ... keeps no record of wrongs" (mV). The letter continued with another set of "anothers".

In April we paid to fix another vehicle when Denalyn Lucado hit the rear of another car at a stop sign.

"But she was giving the baby a bottle!" I said in her defense to no one listening. Denalyn was at a stoplight. Sara dropped her bottle in the floorboard and was crying, so Denalyn leaned over and picked it up and bumped the car ahead of her. Honest mistake. Could have happened to anyone.

And that time I backed into another car? I reported it! I was the one who walked into the building, found the owner, and told him - what I had done. Confessed my fault. I did my part. I could have backed into the car and driven off, which, to be honest, I did consider but didn't do. Should I also share with them I John 1:9? "If we e confess our sins, he will forgive our sins..."

Don't I get some credit for being honest? Apparently not. Read the conclusion of the letter.

In view of the above information, we are not willing to reinstate your automobile insurance policy. The policy will terminate at 12:01 A.M. Standard Time January 4. I'm sorry our reply could not have been more favorable. For your protection, you are urged to obtain other insurance to prevent any lapse in coverage.

Wait a minute. Let me see if I get this right. I bought insurance to cover my mistakes. But then I get dropped for making mistakes. Hello. Did I miss something? Did I fail to see a footnote? Did I skip some fine print in the contract?

Did I overlook a paragraph that read, "We, the aforesaid company will consider one Max Lucado insurable until he shows himself to be one who needs insurance upon which time his coverage ceases"?

Isn't that like a doctor treating healthy patients only? Or a dentist hanging a sign in the window, "No cavities, please"? Or a teacher penalizing you for asking too many questions? Isn't that like qualifying for a loan by proving you don't need one? What if the fire department said it would protect you until you had a fire? What if a bodyguard said he'd protect you unless someone was after you? Or a lifeguard said she'd watch over you unless you started to drown?

Or what if, perish the thought, heaven had limitations to its coverage? What if you got a letter from the Pearly Gate Underwriting Division that read:

Dear Mrs. Smith,

I'm writing in response to this morning's request for forgiveness. I'm sorry to inform you that you have reached your quota of sins. Our records show that, since employing our services, you have erred seven times in the area of greed, and your prayer life is substandard when compared to others of age and circumstance.

Further review reveals that your understanding of doctrine is in the lower 20 percentile and you have excessive tendencies to gossip. Because of your sins you are a high-risk candidate for heaven. You understand that grace has its limits. Jesus sends his regrets and kindest regards and hopes that you will find some other form of coverage.

Many fear receiving such a letter. Some worry they already have If an insurance company can't cover my honest mistakes, can I expect God to cover my intentional rebellion?

Paul answers the question with what John Stott calls "the most startling statement in Romans."' God "makes even evil people right in his sight" (Rom. 4:5). What an incredible claim! It's one thing to make good people right, but those who are evil? We can expect God to justify the decent, but the dirty? Surely coverage is provided for the driver with the clean record, but the speeder? The ticketed? The high-risk client? How in the world can justification come for the evil?...

How does God make us right with him? Let's return to the insurance company and ask a few questions: First, was it unjust in dismissing me as a client? No. I may find its decision distasteful, unenjoyable, even disheartening, but I cannot call it unfair. It only did what it said it would do.

So did our Father. He told Adam, "If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die" (Gen. 2:17). No fine print. No hidden agenda. No loophole or technicality. God has not played games with us. He has been fair. Since Eden, the wages of sin have been death (Rom. 6:23).

Just as reckless driving has its consequences, so does reckless living. Just as I have no defense before the insurance company, I have no defense before God. My record accuses me. My past convicts me.

Now, suppose the founder and CEO of the insurance company chose to have mercy upon me. Suppose, for some reason, he wanted to keep me as a client. What can he do? Can't he just close his eyes and pretend I made no mistakes? Why doesn't he take my driving record and tear it up? Two reasons.

First, the integrity of the company would be compromised. He would have to relax the standards of the organization, something he could not and should not do. The ideals of the organization are too valuable to be abandoned. The company cannot abandon its precepts and still maintain integrity.

Second, the mistakes of the driver would be encouraged. If there is no price for my mistakes, why should I drive carefully? If the president will dismiss my errors, then what's to keep me from driving however I want? If he is willing to ignore any blunders, then blunder on!

Is that the aim of the president? Is that the goal of his mercy? Lowered standards and poor driving? No. The president is faced with this dilemma. How can I be merciful and fair at the same time? How can I offer grace without endorsing mistakes?

Or, put in biblical terms, how can God punish the sin and love the sinner? Paul has made it clear, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness" (Rom. 1:18 NIV). Is God going to lower his standard so we can be forgiven? Is God going to look away and pretend I've never sinned? Would we want a God who altered the rules and made exceptions? No. We want a God who "does not change like ... shifting shadows" (James 1:17) and who "judges all people in the same way" (Rom. 2:11).

Besides, to ignore my sin is to endorse my sin. If my sin has no price, then sin on! If my sin brings no pain, then sin on! In fact, "We should do evil so that good will come" (Rom. 3:8). Is this the aim of God? To compromise his holiness and enable our evil?

Of course not. Then what is he to do? How can he be just and love the sinner? How can he be loving and punish the sin? How can he satisfy his standard and forgive my mistakes? Is there any way God could honor the integrity of heaven without turning his back on me?

Holiness demands that sin be punished. Mercy compels that the sinner be loved. How can God do both? May I answer the question by returning to the insurance executive? Imagine him inviting me to his office and saying these words.

"Mr. Lucado, I have found a way to deal with your mistakes. I can't overlook them; to do so would be unjust. I can't pretend you didn't commit them; to do so would be a lie. But here is what I can do. In our records we have found a person with a spotless past. He has never broken a law. Not one violation, not one trespass, not even a parking ticket. He has volunteered to trade records with you. We will take your name and put it on his record. We will take his name and put it on yours. We will punish him for what you did. You, who did wrong, will be made right. He, who did right, will be made wrong."

My response? "You've got to be kidding! Who would do this for me? Who is this person?"

To which the president answers, "Me."

If you're waiting for an insurance executive to say that, don't hold your breath. He won't. He can't. Even if he wanted to he couldn't. He has no perfect record.

But if you're wanting God to say those words, you can sigh with relief. He has. He can. For "God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself.... Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God" (2 Cor. 5:19, 21).

The perfect record of Jesus was given to you, and your imperfect record was given to Christ. Jesus was "not guilty, but he suffered for those who are guilty to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). As a result, God's holiness is honored and his children are forgiven.

By his perfect life Jesus fulfilled the commands of the law. By his death he satisfied the demands of sin. Jesus suffered not like a sinner, but as a sinner. Why else would he cry, "My GOD, my GOD, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46 NKJV).

Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn't condone our sin; nor does he compromise his standard. He doesn't ignore our rebellion; nor does he relax his demands. Rather than dismiss our sin he assumes our sin and, incredibly, sentences himself. God's holiness is honored. Our sin is punished. And we are redeemed. God is still God. The wages of sin is still death. And we are made perfect.

That's right, perfect. "With one sacrifice he made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Heb. 10:14).

God justifies (makes perfect) then sanctifies (makes holy). God does what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream, per­fect before God. He justly justifies the unjust.

And what did he do with your poor driving record? "He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:14 ).

And what should be your response? Let's go one more time to the insurance company. I return to my agent and ask him to call up my file. He does and stares at the computer screen in disbelief. "Mr. Lucado, you have a perfect past. Your performance is spotless."

My response? If I'm dishonest and ungrateful, I will deepen my voice and cross my arms and say, "You are right. It's not easy to be great."

If I'm honest and grateful, I will simply smile and say, "I don't deserve that compliment. In fact, I don't deserve that record. It was and is an unspeakable gift of grace."

By the way, I have a new automobile-insurance company. They charge me a little more since I've been bumped from a competitor. And who knows? I may get a few more letters before it's all over.

My eternal soul is under heavenly coverage, and Jesus isn't known for dismissing clients. He is known, however, for paying premiums and I'm paid up for life. I'm in good hands with him.

In the Grip of Grace

copyright [Word Publishing, 1996] Max Lucado, p. 67-70, 72-76.

Used by permission

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