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Sep 08

Police Cars, Anne Rice, Tickets, and Grace

I’m writing this in July shortly after our vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. We had a great week with our daughters, their husbands and the grandchildren. And then that was followed by a week of just hanging out. It was a nice time…

…except for backing into a police car.

That was right after I ran two red lights.

I’m writing this from jail.

Actually, I’m not writing this from jail and therein is a story of grace.

It was the evening of July Fourth and we drove to Lake Junaluska to see the large firework display. There were thousands of people there, we were running late and I made a wrong turn. In an effort to get back on the right road, I ran two stoplights (well, one and a half, since my son-in-law said that he thought one of the lights was yellow) and made another wrong turn around some traffic cones. As I mentioned, there were lots of people and lots of confusion.

So I backed up.

That’s when I heard the crash. I thought I had hit my son-in-law’s car (he and the grandchildren were following us) until there was this flashing red light.

Someone said that you know you’re going to have a bad day when your horn sticks and you’re driving behind a group of Hell’s Angels. That’s true. Right behind that on the list of very bad stuff that can happen to you is backing into a police car.

So while Anna, our daughters, their husbands and the grandchildren watched the fireworks, I talked with the police officer and his friend (another police officer he called), and made nice. This was not a time to give reign to my authority problem with police. This was a time to be humble, quiet, apologetic and really, really repentant.

And I was!

There is a lot more to be said, but to make a long story short, the police officer checked his car and there was no damage. As an afterthought, he checked mine and there was very little damage there either. Then to my surprise and relief, he said, “I’ve decided not to give you a ticket.”

After I got up from kneeling before him, I walked over to where the family was and said, “He decided not to give me a ticket!”

Our oldest granddaughter (she’s 13) grinned and said, “I would have.”

“I would have too, honey,” I replied.

Barnhouse said that all of life illustrates Bible doctrine. I’ve been thinking about the incident with the police officer and there are clearly some illustrations of doctrine.

For instance, with the police officer, I didn’t have an excuse. I don’t have one with God either.If that officer had put me in jail and thrown away the keys, I simply would have had to accept his decision as just. I had nothing but his mercy and, as you know, a police officer’s mercy can be an iffy thing.

God’s mercy never is.

Paul said to the Romans (1:20) about those who have “seen” God’s eternal power and divine nature, “So they are without excuse.”We are without excuse too.

Yesterday, I did an interview with a radio station in Pittsburg (WORD-FM) and my friends, John Hall and Kathy Emmons.Among other things, they asked for a reaction to an Anne Rice quote. Anne Rice, as you may know, is the woman who wrote vampire books and made a fortune, announced that she had become a Christian and would never write vampire books again, and started writing Christian books. She recently made an announcement that she was no longer a Christian:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out…It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

I was asked to respond. “First,” I said, “I really don’t care. Second, I think that might be the most self-righteous, silly, sophomoric drivel I’ve heard in weeks. Such overweening presumption and arrogance drives me nuts!” Then I thought about what I had just said and added, “…as does the self-righteous statement I just made.”

It’s really hard to be offended at self-righteousness without being self-righteous.

God and police officers are pleased with a “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Self-righteousness, making excuses, pretending to be something you’re not, and self-justification can get you into serious trouble with police officers. It’s not very smart with a holy God either.

There is another similarity between my encounter with the police officer and my encounter with God. It’s the totally amazing, unbelievable and surprising grace I received from both.

Shortly after my unexpected run-in with the police officer, I met, through a friend, the District Attorney of the county where the incident took place. The DA listens to Key Life, likes my books, and was a friend of my late brother who was DA in the adjacent county.”Do you know a police officer named Mike?” I asked him. He said he did. “If you see him,” I continued, “tell him you met an old preacher who rises up and calls him blessed.”

The DA asked why and I told him the story.

Do you know what his reaction was? “You’re making that up!”

“No I’m not. Your officer let me go without a ticket or jail time.”

Paul gave a benediction to the Ephesians that begins this way (3:20): “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” Sometimes police officers do that.

God always does.

And the most surprising thing about that is we aren’t surprised by it. If you’ve never said about what you’ve discovered in Christ, “This can’t be true…Nothing is that good!” and if everybody to whom you witness doesn’t say, “You’re making that up!” then it’s probably not the Gospel. Religion, policemen who give tickets for bad behavior, scary calls to obedience (“God’s going to break your legs!”), and justice for screwing up…none of that is surprising.

Grace always is.

I got it from a police officer in the mountains of North Carolina a few days ago.

I got it from God a few minutes ago and there is a whole lot more where that came from…more than I can ask or think.

You be careful out there. Watch for police cars. If you hit one, you’ll get a ticket and might even go to jail.

Didn’t happen to me. But then, God likes me more than he likes you.

But he likes you too!

He asked me to remind you.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, seminary professor and author. He previously served as a pastor for over twenty-five years and now devotes much of his time to the radio broadcast, Key Life. With such varied experience and unique perspective on life, Steve is an original. He refuses to be a "guru," doesn't want to be anyone's mother and gives, in his teaching, the freedom to think. Overall, Steve has become known for his refreshing and practical Biblical applications. Steve serves as Professor of Preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He sits on the board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA. Traveling extensively, Steve is a much-in-demand speaker. Steve is the author of numerous books including Born Free, When Being Good Isn't Good Enough and When Your Rope Breaks. His articles appear in such magazines and journals as Leadership, Decision, Plain Truth and Today's Christian Woman.

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