I am reading a wonderful book by John Piper called Future Grace. The premise of the book is that all the power of Christianity comes when we live in faith that God will provide us His grace int the future. Even when we can see countless examples of His goodness to us in the past, they basically serve as a confidence builder for us to have faith in His future provision.
While thinking through some of these ideas I was drawn to the past election. Millions of people put their faith in hope (or should I say hope and change). It was hope undefined and because of that in many ways unlimited. People superimposed their hopes into the generic master hope that the President preached. Of course he himself did not ask them to do that but by using a sufficiently generic term like “hope”, he could co-opt whatever hopes millions of individuals had. This is why we have so many accounts of generally uneducated people saying things like Obama is going to take care of their mortgage or give them money or fix whatever problem they have even when the President has no actual ability to do these things. This is a good example that faith always has an object, and in this case the object of these people’s faith was hope for their problems to be solved by someone who’s never met them and could not pick them out of a lineup.
Christians should be different. Realizing that faith always has an object, our faith should be in God alone. That God has graciously given us multiple perspectives of Himself through history, His word and His Son should make our faith in Him that much more substantive. Rather than put our faith in generic, undefined hope, we should put our hope in our faith in a glorious, loving and sovereign God. Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live BY FAITH in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20). Faith is enabler for all our future decisions, actions and growth BECAUSE of who we have faith in.
Because our faith is rooted in a specific someone who is able to do immeasurably more than anything we can ask or imagine, we can hope in faith. It is the total opposite of those who put their faith in hope without focus or specifics.
I think it’s instructional when considering the government intervention on our health care system to consider how well they’ve done in other interventions. It would be especially interesting to just look at how the federal government has done in managing AIG or General Motors/Chrysler but I’ll leave that for another day because I can’t get one example out of my mind.
Many of you know I fly a lot. I won’t make it this year because of the economic downturn, but I’ve been a Platinum flyer on Continental when I lived in Cleveland and Delta now that I’m in Atlanta for most of the last 10 years. As such, I’ve had the chance to appreciate airport security both before and after the switch to government airport security following 9/11. I’m not impressed.
Prior to the government takeover of airport screening companies competed on merit to do the job. The argument that airports just bid it out to the lowest bidder says more about how silly government procurement rules are than the actual screening system. Companies knew they were pulling from basically the same labor force so the value they tried to add was with management teams that were expert or offered better service. For example, one firm hired a gentleman named Hovan Franko, an Israeli who was an expert in identifying non-verbal clues that someone could be up to no good. He trained not only his screeners, but airline counter people and others in the airport. It was a great and innovative service promoted by the free market.
Fast forward to today. While the government said the Transportation Security Administration was necessary to ensure consistent screening practices across the country and raise the quality of screening generally that simply hasn’t happened. I’ve lost count of how many airports I have traveled through since the TSA took over (well over 30) and I can attest to the fact that there is no consistency across them. Even when they eventually adopt the same rule, it might happen months apart. (For the record, the TSA people in Salt Lake City are by far the worst I have ever dealt with.) Most airports say nothing about a hair cream I have in my travel bag but never use. San Francisco told me it had to be inside my 1 quart plastic bag. The screeners at Canton/Akron actually argued with me that it was a liquid or gel and I had to explain third grade science to them. I’ve gone through security with a belt on several hundred times but this morning the machine went off and I had to remove it (same exact belt I went through security with three times in the last three weeks). Some make you remove a sweatshirt and others done. Some take 30 seconds to scrutinize your ID and boarding pass (as if they really knew what they were looking at) and some don’t care. To this date, none has told me the 1 once size Purell I have in my computer bag would have to go in my 1 quart plastic bag.
Some say, sure they’re inconsistent but the quality of screening has gone up. Well they would be wrong as well. Just about every audit of TSA performance done shows they perform at the same level and in some cases worse than the private security people did. Nobody should be surprised since in many cases it’s the same exact people doing the job. How about their management? Are there any Hovan Franko’s at the TSA? Not really. The best example is the whole 1 quart plastic bag fiasco. They implemented the rule five years after taking over because the threat of liquid explosives was so great. Think about this for a minute. Liquid explosives have been around for more than a century and they’re just now seeing that it’s a threat? Either they let us fly in great peril for five years or the whole thing is made up to boost their control over us.
Why is this a good case study for healthcare? There are a lot of reasons but I will outline a few.
1) They will be slow to react to new trends. Just like it took them five years to determine that a decades old threat was applicable to airport security, the government run health system will be slow to respond to health trends. They have no motive to do anything proactively.
2) People will generally sink to the level the lowest performers around them. Government employment generally is not where high performers go. There are lots of great reasons to work for the government and great government workers, but really ambitious people don’t go there. As the good people see weak performers linger on without any consequence they will get weaker just as has happened at the TSA.
3) The power will go to their heads. Ask anyone who travels today whether TSA people have let the power go to their heads. Their arrogance is amazing and the notion of customer service is completely absent from most of them. This will show up in call hold times, bureaucratic responses and stonewalling on answers. (of course I could use just about any government agency to make this point, not just the TSA).
4) They will lower standards to hire people willing to do the job. Remember the “high” standards originally proposed to be a part of the critical TSA? They wanted people to be citizens with a high school diploma. While both were used as criticisms of the privately run screening system, both requirements were eventually dropped for the TSA.
5) Rather than see costs come down, costs will go up as the inability to use private resources creatively forces more staff to be hired to meet gaps in coverage and skills.
I could go on but I won’t. Just think about every government office you’ve ever visited. Are the people who work there self starters? Are they driven by customer service? Are they quality minded? I’m not asking are there some people there who are these things but would you describe the whole office that way? I cannot think of a single place where I would.
We have a great home built by a great builder and serviced by a great project manager. His name is Kevin Young. One of the things I love about Kevin is how attentive he always is when he enters our house. Anytime there is even a remote chance there is dirt or mud on his feet he takes his boots off before entering the house. He is concerned that our house is clean and the presence of dirt on his shoes will spoil it. I think most people would expect someone with mud on their boots to take steps to ensure they didn’t track it into their clean house and ruin their clean carpet.
I’m amazed that while most people would see this as an act of both consideration and in some ways reverence, many do not apply the same standard to heaven. We know we want our clean house to stay clean, but somehow we don’t recognize that God wants to keep his perfectly holy heaven that way. People think they can track their sin right into heaven anytime they want and God will be okay with it. He’s not going to do that. The Bible says God is only light and in Him is no darkness at all. He will not tolerate that being spoiled.
Some people might say that their sin isn’t so bad and God will be okay with it. I can’t imagine why He would be. If a contractor came into your house and got your carpet just a little bit stained would you be okay with it? What if he just put a little smudge on your new wall? How would you feel about the whole reason he was careless was because he took for granted that you’d be okay with it?
That is exactly what many people do with heaven. They think that somehow because the Bible says God is Love that He will overlook every other characteristic he has like His justice and His holiness. He’s not going to do that. In fact, in His love he’s provided a way for us to have the dirtiest shoes you can imagine and still enter heaven.
Jesus’ blood is like those little blue cloth footies doctors wear. It doesn’t matter how dirty their shoes are because they are covered by the footies. Our sin doesn’t stain heaven not because it isn’t there, but because it is covered. The footies are one size fits all so they cover bid sins and little sins, public sins and private sins.
There’s one thing that’s required for these footies to work. Someone has to put them on. If you want the Jesus footies so God will let you into heaven you the first thing you must do is see the need for footies. If you don’t put the footies on you will not cover your sin and you will not get into heaven. The Bible says “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us to his own way, and God has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” The question is not whether you need the footies, only whether you will put them on. Jesus said that all who come to me I will never cast out. You never have to worry about Him running out of footies. They are available for anyone who confesses that they are a sinner and do not deserve heaven.
God will not let you spoil His home anymore than you would let a contractor spoil yours. Repent of your sin, turn to Jesus, put the footies on and come inside.