Thievery, Pride, and Forgiveness

There are thieves mucking about our church yard, and their latest heist targeted a live, six foot pine tree in the rear yard of the building. A tree our pastor’s wife planted with her own hand. They pulled a truck up to it in the wee hours of Sunday morning, cut it down, and hauled it off. Presumably, so their family could have a tree for Christmas.

The local news picked up the story, and shared it with the community. Our pastors hope the thief comes forward, so that they have an opportunity to share the grace and forgiveness of God with this individual and their family. And, if they can help this person out with some food or in some other way, that’s what they want.

I have to say that I am so grateful I belong to a church where the pastoral staff’s first response is forgiveness. The lovely woman who planted the tree is saddened by the loss of something she put work and love into, and decorated every year. Her attitude about the whole thing is admirable, though. She just plans on planting another tree.

I was a bit discouraged by some of the responses to this story. Some people seemed so angry, and insinuated that the thief better watch out, come Judgment Day. Most responses were from people who were sad, but aware that this thief is no different from any of us. I couldn’t help but respond to the former group of people, with what I hoped was gentle correction, to the effect that “There, but for the grace of God, go all of us”.

I’m sure I offended or hurt some people, though that wasn’t my intention.

After I posted, I talked to Levi about it, and he assured me that what I’d said was fine. Still, I question my motives. Did I speak out of pride? Did I point out a speck while a plank was obliterating my vision? Ultimately, I think I escaped that mistake this time. That’s not to say I won’t do it today at some point, though. If I’m going to screw up, it will usually be because of something I say in stupidity or pride or both.

This morning, I came across this:

“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.”
~1 Timothy 5:24-25 (NIV)

My take-away?

I’m not really sure yet. Still asking God to give me a heart to understand what he’s saying to me.

At the very least, I can see this point coming from it: Stealing is a blatant, observable sin. Everyone can see it. It goes before the individual, and brands him a Thief. And, calling people out for their response to the thief can definitely be a sin, if it’s done in pride. (Lord, save me from a fall!) It’s just not as obvious, because the words themselves can be true, and it’s easy to make them sound humble or loving. It’s easier to make it look good.

So, I’m questioning myself. A lot.

If you are one who read my responses, and I caused you undue hurt, I apologize here and now, and openly ask your forgiveness. My sin, if it was sin indeed, is no less grievous than the theft of a Christmas tree from a church.

That’s all I’m really trying to say this morning. Thanks for listening.

Grace & Peace,