Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He Suffered Injustice

Over the past several weeks I have been dealing with some issues that have been a real test of character, and have caused me to think a lot about what it means to be a Christian in our culture. I won't go into all the details, but some explanation is necessary for this post to make sense. In October I was in a fender bender, where the other driver was cited for failure to yield and was clearly at fault. I thought my biggest headache would be finding the time to get to a body shop for an estimate and repair. That turned out not to be the case. The other driver's insurance company (The General) not only gave me a low estimate, but offered to pay just 60% of the repair estimate, claiming that I was negligent and partially at fault for the crash. The claims representative (I'll refer to her as Sandy) was very unhelpful and rude, and refused to connect me to a supervisor or anyone who could discuss the matter further.

I don't think I slept more than a couple hours that first night after I spoke with Sandy. I was angry at this injustice, and stressed about how I would shoulder the bill for repairing my vehicle. As I thought about it more, I became more bitter toward the insurance company and Sandy for the way I was being treated. I was dead-set on taking the matter to court (I had already contacted my insurance company and the Ohio Department of Insurance, who would do nothing for me). I was convinced that I would win in court, and I couldn't wait to see justice done, proving that I was right. I even found an attorney that would take the case.

But there was one small problem with my plan. As it turns out, in order to go after the rest of the money for the repairs, I would have to sue the other driver, not the insurance company directly. I wouldn't have found it difficult to sue The General, or even Sandy, since they are the perpetrators of the injustice, and the ones making accusations of negligence against me. But did I really want to take the other driver to court? She caused the accident, but it was not her fault that the insurance company was refusing to pay. At the time of the accident I actually felt bad for her. When the sheriff showed up, she took responsibility and expressed gratefulness that I wasn't angry about the incident. I don't know how much the accident cost her in terms of the traffic ticket and car repairs, but it's no fun paying for all that—even when it is your mistake that caused it.

As I mentioned at the top of this post, this whole ordeal has got me thinking a lot: about justice; about forgiveness; about bitterness and anger; about the effects of bitterness on us and those around us. The first couple days, when all of this was really weighing heavily on me, I was dwelling on it a lot. The more I stewed, the worse I felt and the more my family bore the brunt of it. Of course I didn't mean to treat them poorly, but bitterness was beginning to take root and my family was suffering he consequences. I finally realized what was happening, and had to ask the Lord to help me forgive, release my bitterness, and submit my burden to him. I meditated on this verse frequently:

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7 ESV)

The other big issue I have been thinking about is the injustice of this situation. An honest insurance company would just pay the claim, but this company was blaming me so they could get away with not paying what they owe. As I reflected on this, something occurred to me. During this Christmas season we celebrate the coming of Christ into our world. Yet, the world did not receive him or recognize him for who he was (John 1:9-13). The blameless son of God suffered the incomparable injustice of being accused, condemned, and murdered in the most brutal way. If this wasn't enough, he bore the sin of all mankind. Yet, how did he respond?

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)

As I reflected on this season and what it means to be a follower of Christ, I found myself asking, “How can I best demonstrate the love of God in this situation?” On one hand, we have laws in this country to allow justice to be done in situations like this. I would certainly be justified in going to court. But is suing someone the best way to show the love of Christ? 

If there was ever a season in which to extend mercy, grace, and love, is this not the season? Of course we should do this year-round, but during Advent we set aside time to focus intently on the anticipation of the Messiah coming into the world as a helpless baby. The infinite God who spoke the world into existence took upon himself the constraints of a human. He ultimately endured unjust suffering, culminating in his death and resurrection, which purchased freedom from sin and eternal death for you and for me. If my Savior could suffer like that for me, can I not endure this relatively insignificant injustice for the sake of loving my neighbor? 

So that is what I decided to do. Rather than pursue the matter in court, I have—by God's grace—traded my bitterness and anger for forgiveness. In doing so I have found peace and freedom that is far more valuable than the sum of money I would have won in court. And in His mercy, God provided for the repair of my vehicle. To keep the cost down, I bought a new fender to install myself, and a family friend offered to paint it for free. Another friend advised me on how to deal with the insurance company, and I ended up getting about 85% of the estimated repair cost without going to court.

Sometimes it takes a trial like this to reveal our true character. Unfortunately, when I looked into the mirror of God's Word (see James 1:22-25), I did not like what I saw. But thanks be to God that He does not leave us in our sinful state. When we yield to Him, He transforms us and remakes us into men and women who increasingly reflect the nature of Christ.

This Christmas, take time with me to truly celebrate with thankfulness the coming of the Messiah into the world. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, yet suffered and died unjustly. Then, having conquered death, He rose to new life, making the way for us to be rescued from the clutches of sin and darkness. Through Jesus' unjust suffering on earth the justice of God was satisfied, and those who turn from their sin, looking to Christ in faith, receive a full pardon. Not only that, but as we submit to Him, the Spirit begins changing us now—a transformation that changes the way we live and think and act, and will culminate on the day we find ourselves freed from this earthly body and made new in His presence!

May we live in this reality during the holiday season and all year-round. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Year-End Giving

I don't like "year-end ask" letters. There, I said it! I have a hard time sending letters that start out by expressing warm wishes, Christmas greetings, and thankfulness for those who supported our ministry over the past year, only to end the letter saying, "Please send more money!" Of course I wouldn't use those exact words, but that is the feeling I get from year-end appeals. I want this season to be a time when I think about giving and thankfulness, and not asking others to give to us.

I'll also admit that, especially in past years, I have not looked forward to receiving year-end appeals for financial support. For some reason it bothers me when I eagerly open a "Christmas card", and it ends up being a request for money (sorry if this offends you; I hope you'll keep reading). But that's ironic, especially this year. We have been setting aside some funds and are looking for places to give. Am I crazy or what? I want to give, but I don't want anyone to ask me to give! Yeah, I guess I am crazy. Sure, there are times when God brings someone to mind, without any intervention by us. But He frequently uses some sort of communication, such as a letter or a presentation.

As I receive year-end appeal letters, I suppose I need to look at them as opportunities—especially since I am still considering where to give before the end of the year. I also realize that there may be other people out there in the same boat. So without making any desperate pleas or twisting your arm, I will just say this: if you're still contemplating options for year-end giving, and would like to help us continue ministry for another year, here's how you can help. If you want to know what we've been doing over the past year, feel free to look back over our blog, and especially our Facebook page and Vimeo account.

To those of you who have prayed, given, or supported our ministry in any way: thank you! It is a privilege to serve with MMS Aviation, helping to send people and planes around the world with the message of Christ and the love of God. May you be blessed as you celebrate and remember the coming of Jesus during this Advent and Christmas season. It's because of Him that we have true life, and can shine His light to others.