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The Dangers of the SUV of Faith
by Glenn Pettit
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We got hit with another snowstorm today. As I drove down the highway to drop my kids off with their mom, I saw 7 vehicles that had slid off the road. That number wasn't nearly as impressive as the 18 I saw after the last snowstorm a couple months ago. But what's interesting is the proportion of the types of vehicles that I saw both times: at least half of them were Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Before I made any assumptions, I decided to check and see how many SUVs are really on the road. As of 2004, SUV sales accounted for 25% of sales of new vehicles, and that translates to roughly 14% of all registered vehicles. Even from government data from 2000, the rate of new car sales for SUVs accounted for 20% of the new car market. (link) So if we have fewer SUVs on the road than normal cars, why are just as many of them running off the road in bad weather? Care to guess? It doesn't take a scientist to understand that people feel safer in an SUV than in a regular passenger vehicle or a minivan (even though most cross-over SUVs are built on the same frames as minivans and mid-size sedans). The basic idea is that a lot of people who drive SUVs feel invincible, regardless of what's going on around them. Whatever the weather or the road conditions, a lot of folks feel that if they've got 4-wheel drive and decent tires, they can go as fast as they want and drive however they like. The cars I've seen on the road today and after other storms show me that they're wrong.

As I drove home at half the legal speed limit in my minivan, I reflected on how the same is true for many Christians. Once we've accepted Christ and find that "personal relationship" that the churches all tout these days (whatever that may be), many of us feel like we can just keep on going through our lives as if we're in an SUV of faith. We figure the grace of God will keep us moving, the guidance of the Holy Spirit will keep us going the right direction, and the power of Christ will save us from harm. It may seem like a silly analogy, but with some of the Christians I know and love, it isn't too far off. The problem then is that we take unnecessary risks when we face temptations and troubles, and we just keep on forging ahead with more confidence than caution. And we also take risks with our families, as if our SUV of faith could protect them, too. We become over-confident and then when we lose control and slide into sin, we seem to do so just as often as people who aren't church-going Christians. In fact, in proportion to our numbers, our failures seem far more noticeable. When I hear about a Christian failing to live up to Christ's teachings, I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say or write, "He/She ought to have known better! Isn't he/she a Christian?" Of course, when a non-Christian commits a sin, people just write it off as "human nature" or a bad upbringing. Interesting double standard, isn't it?

To get back to my SUV analogy: We Christians must really understand that our faith does not make us invincible against sin. Nothing in the Bible ever indicates that we cannot crash, cannot roll over, cannot slide off the road, cannot strike another person's life with our own. On the contrary, we are told that we must rely on Christ and behave like Christ, and that we must avoid bad situations in order to avoid sinning. Not to the point of leaving the world entirely, mind you, but at least living such godly lives that we don't become entangled with sin. Pardon the pun, but we need to ditch that SUV mentality and think of our faith more like a big bus: a bit unwieldy, but with plenty of room for everyone and stopping cautiously at every railroad crossing. Rather than barreling down the road alone at breakneck speed, we need to stop now and then to take others long with us. We need to watch for others when we stop, and give them a chance to cross the road to us before we move on. We need to drive carefully on the slippery roads of popular culture and "acceptable immorality" we see in our society today. Then we can arrive Home safely and with the confidence we ought to have: that if we have lived the life of a good and faithful servant, we will be welcomed warmly by our Savior.

By the way, I made it almost all the way back home before I got stuck in a snowdrift I couldn't see because of the blowing snow. Fortunately, just that morning I had put a shovel in the back of the van, and so I dug myself out and ended up parking a block from home and walking the rest of the way. I am sure there's a nice analogy about preparedness in that story somewhere.

- written Feb 17, 2008
2008 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel

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