Friday, May 30, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Scratched Ferrari

I volunteer as the Scout Master in our local troop and am currently helping the boys with the Cinematography merit badge. For our script, we needed to film one of the scenes with a luxury car(s), so I arranged with one of my neighbors who has two beautiful Ferraris to film this scene at his home last week.

My five year old son came with me for the filming and was to have a part in the scene as an elf. We were in my neighbor’s garage and he was showing me the pictures on his wall of fame and shame (crashes) of his various vehicles. As we were looking at the pictures, we heard a crash and turned around to see a chair on the front of the red Ferrari. In front of the Ferrari was a raised workbench area with a chair on wheels. My son had accidentally knocked the chair off the workbench platform onto the Ferrari.

Lesson 1
C.S. Lewis taught, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.” (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) p.166)

A chair damaging my neighbor’s Ferrari definitely caught both me and my neighbor off guard and would certainly classify as a sudden provocation. My son ran and hid behind one of our friends who was with us, who later told me my son’s heart was beating extremely fast as he waited to see what would happen next. I was quite impressed by my neighbor’s reaction. He remained clam and said to my son, “That is why they make paint; I will be able to have it fixed.” From my interaction with this neighbor at church, my impressions were that he was a wonderful disciple of Christ. To see that his immediate reaction was one of patience, love, and concern for my son illustrated that my neighbor truly was a man who had the attributes of love, caring, and patience to his very core.

Lesson 2
When we arrived home after filming, I told Mitchell that even though it was an accident, he was still responsible for the damage that he had caused and he needed to give all the money he had worked for and had been saving over the last several months to our neighbor to help pay for the repair. Well, my son didn’t like this idea and began to cry saying, “I don’t want to lose all my money. I will have to start all over.” I explained to him that when we damage something that is not ours we have the responsibility and duty to pay to repair the damage. His crying continued as I had him take all the dollars and coins out of his savings jar and put them in an envelope for me to take to our neighbor.

As I write this I am reminded of incidences from the life of Abraham Lincoln, who on multiple occasions repaid debt and met financial obligations under severe distress. One of these incidences occurred in 1837, when Lincoln and others had incurred a large financial obligation. Many of those who owed the obligation were impoverished from The Panic of 1837 and none of the debtors were flourishing. Some sought to be relieved of the burden by seeking a legislative amendment which would have removed the obligation, but Lincoln objected to such action saying, “We have the benefit. Let us stand to our obligations like men.” These were trying times for each of those repaying the debt, and at this time Abraham Lincoln’s financial condition was described as worse than penniless because of the burden of debt upon him. At times he was unable to supply even his most pressing needs. Great sacrifices were made to make the payments and repay the debt, and finally after 8 long years the debt was paid in full. The painfully liquidated note is now framed and displayed in a banking-house at Springfield where all who enter may see. It serves as a memorial to the rectitude of the community during those trying times. (Alonzo Rothschild, Honest Abe, (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917) p. 222-224)

Hopefully, this lesson will help my son learn the need to “stand to his obligations like a man.”

Lesson 3
I returned to my neighbor’s home with an envelope containing my son’s money and a blank check payable to him. When he answered the door, I explained my desire to pay to have the Ferrari repaired. I handed him the envelope and told him that my son had emptied his savings and that I had also enclosed a check to cover the cost to repair the damage. My neighbor handed me back the envelope and check and said, “You are a man of honor, but I can’t take this.” I replied, “I am responsible for the damage and I want to pay to fix it. It’s not fair for you to be responsible for it.” My neighbor then explained that he would be able to have it repaired and that I did not need to worry about it. He then said, “I view it as a donation—a gift.”

My neighbor extended grace to me. He agreed to pay for the damage to his Ferrari that I was responsible for as a gift. Likewise, Christ has paid the price for our sins so we do not have to. Through Christ’s grace, we can be freed from paying the penalty for our sins.

One of the principles inborn within each of us is the principle of justice and fairness. If I were to ask you, “At the final judgment, do you want to be judged fairly by Christ?,” what would you say? Many to whom I have posed this question answer yes. The reality, however, is that if we were to be judged fairly, we would all go to hell because each of us has sinned and thus broke the law. As a result, we cannot be saved in heaven if judged fairly. This is where Christ comes in—He is our Savior. He has paid the penalty for our sins and thus can extend to us His grace and mercy. Those who receive Eternal Life do so as a gift from Christ, not because they have earned it or deserve it.

My initial reaction to my neighbor’s gift was that it was not fair for him to pay for something that was my responsibility. Likewise, I think some have a hard time accepting the doctrine of the grace of Christ because it is not fair. It is not fair that we should receive a great reward like Everlasting Life as a gift. In an attempt to make things more fair, some try to earn or work for Eternal Life thinking, “Surely, I must have to earn such a great reward.” The Bible teaches that salvation “. . . is not dependent upon the merits (Romans 3:27), wisdom, or the works of man to any degree; it is given as a free gift to man through God's grace or benevolence.” (Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters, p. 174) The idea of being given eternal life when we haven’t earned it seems to violate the law of justice and fairness and thus is hard for some to accept even though it is true.

A wonderful story from the Old Testament tells of the Lord teaching the Israelites the doctrine of the grace and mercy of Christ. The children of Israel spoke against God and Moses and to chasten the children of Israel “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it came to pass, that everyone that is bitten when he looketh upon it shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Number 21:6-9, King James Version)

This story in Numbers is an obvious type of Christ. The biting of the people by the serpents is symbolic of sin. Just as there was no way the Israelites could cure themselves of the bites from the serpents, so we can’t cure ourselves of sin or spiritual death, which we all experience because of the fall. The serpent on the pole or cross is symbolic of the atonement of Christ, while the request to look to the serpent and be healed or saved from the bites of the serpents is symbolic of accepting the Savior and thus allowing Him to save us. All the Israelites had to do was look to the serpent and live. However, there were many of the Israelites who did not look at the serpent because it seemed too simple, too easy. Their task was to look and be saved, but there were many who would not, thus choosing to perish. Today there are many who have not fully accepted the doctrine of the grace and mercy of Christ because it seems too easy. It just isn’t fair and thus they try to work their way to heaven.

“Many people, even some Christians, think about themselves through the eyeglasses of the law. Because these eyeglasses are perfection-oriented, they focus upon and magnify all of one’s failures. When such a person has a week in which everything goes well, then he feels good about himself. But if things are less than perfect, his self-esteem drops. In a fallen world, guess which state is more common! So these people become performance oriented in order to reach up toward perfection. It is a man-centered way to feel good about yourself. Using the “law-eyeglasses” dooms a person to failure every time. Perfection is the standard, performance is the method, and depression is the outcome.

“There is another way to attain a healthy self-esteem. It’s called the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Paul, ‘But not apart from the Law the righteousness of God had been manifested. . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 3:21-24)

“Because I have accepted and trusted in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God now, through grace, sees me as righteous. It’s a whole new pair of glasses to see myself through! Here’s how these “glasses” work. As I put them on, the reality that first impresses me is that I see all men are sinners. Everyone is falling short of the mark. Then I look at myself. All the mistakes, failures, and sins are still there but now, through the eyes of faith, I see that grace has made me acceptable to God. I take a second look just to make sure it’s true. Yes, God in His perfection has accepted me totally apart from the law’s demands and my performance. This is great! Now I don’t have to perform to be accepted. Now I can accept myself. Now I can live with ‘me’ and really get to like me. I have a whole new outlook upon myself. There are Christians who’ve been saved for years but are still wearing the old law-eyeglasses! How regrettable! Let me make a suggestion if you find yourself to be one of these frustrated, performance oriented people. Are you uncomfortable? Go to the doctor and get a new prescription. You will find your new glasses in Romans 3:24. Throw away the old glasses and start living a whole new life! See yourself by faith, the same way God sees you. It will begin to affect you in new and wonderful ways because, as you think in your heart, so are you.” (Ken Radke, But Grace is Enough, (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1991) p. 71-74)

There is no other way to be saved but by grace. As taught the Savior, “I am the away, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6, King James Version)

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