The young man in the radio ad declared—rather calmly and unashamedly—that he was a “high-risk driver.” As he clearly anticipated my not knowing the definition of a high-risk driver, he helpfully explained that he had a few traffic tickets, even an accident or two. He kept his tone rather matter-of-fact until the topic of his car insurance came up. Then, he betrayed not just a little irritation as he mentioned, “My old insurance company dropped me!” But, fret not, he found another company, one that specializes in covering high-risk drivers and even kept his rates low! This new lease on life got him back on the road, and, presumably, granted him the freedom to resume his speeding and accident-creation.
At that moment, I knew: we can never turn back from our newfound bailout culture. In this world in which we now find ourselves, everyone “deserves” a little (or, more often, plenty) more than they have now. In a bailout culture, skyrocketing credit card debt, pesky car accidents, or even corporate bankruptcies are not wake-up calls for radical life change, but rather minor hiccups standing in the way of “the life you deserve.” Inconvenient, perhaps, but such events need not alter our lives in any dramatic fashion.
Yet, living too long surrounded by this mentality can have tremendously negative spiritual results. A world that constantly tells us that we deserve the nicest, most trouble-free life imaginable will quickly dull us to the message of the Gospel. Scripture indicates that none of us deserves anything other than the wrath of the God against whom we’ve rebelled. For in the Gospel, we learn that God acted in our favor when we didn’t deserve it. There is no other way to interpret when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son (Romans 5:10). We weren’t simply people with low credit scores or spotty driving records. No, we were enemies of the Almighty, enemies deserving punishment. And, instead, the one we offended offered us grace and called us his children. The moment we begin to believe we had anything to offer to the Lord that would cause him to choose us, is the moment we most misunderstand our adoption.
But a second danger of such a mentality is that we begin to see no need to repent of our sin. If we aren’t careful, our world will convince us that the Gospel is heartwarming rather than life changing. In this bailout system, our poor choices—on the freeways or with our money—get passed over, and call for us to change very little in response to the issues we see. High-risk drivers shouldn’t worry about obeying the posted speed limits, nor should compulsive shoppers pay any attention to credit limits. Someone will always stand ready with a bailout. But, Scripture tells us that the person who repeats their folly is like a dog returning to its vomit, (Proverbs 26:11) that believers have died to sin and, therefore, cannot live in it any longer, that we were bought with a price and that price demands a response. While the world says, “live as you want and worry about the consequences later,” God says, go and sin no more. (John 8:11)
In a sense, each of us is “high-risk.” We all face trouble in this life, often of our own creation. Yet, in the face of difficulty, we should not protest and insist on what we deserve while continuing to walk the same path that caused us such trouble in the first place. No, when trouble comes in life, we need to run to the Savior who offered us not what we deserve, but so much more. It is that offer that frees us from ourselves and our pitiful desires and promises the new heart of flesh we desperately need in order to be holy as God is holy.