In the dead center of Bell-Ringing season this is NOT a message I wanted to receive. In the heat of days full of meetings, deadlines to meet and a bell-ringing goal to meet, this is not the feedback I was looking forward to. A donor called yesterday, to complain, about a bell-ringer. This is not the message I wanted to hear. A donor had claimed that she had given money to the bell-ringer. The bell-ringer had pretended to put the money in the kettle, but had slipped the money into his pocket. As the Kettle Coordinator told me this story, I was livid. The bell-ringer needed to be punished – fired, even. Justice had to prevail.
Today, like I always do, walked into the room to address the bell-ringers. There, he sat. He tried to say something to me, but I walked past him. I reminded the bell-ringers to never touch the money. I reminded them to ask the donors to place the money directly into the kettle. I expressed how disappointed I was with one of them. I made it clear I was displeased by what one of them had done. Right in the midst of my next sentence, I saw a hand go up.
The accused bell-ringer raised his hand. I gave him the floor. Looking down in shame, he said, “I am the one who stole $10.00 yesterday. I am very, very sorry I took the money. Please forgive me. I am sorry.” There was silence. I felt a lump in my throat. I felt warm tears fill up in my eyes. You see, I wanted to be mad at the thief. I wanted to punish him. I wanted to make everyone know that you don’t steal from God … from The Salvation Army… from me.
My reaction was different. I was filled with compassion. I sensed a deep sadness for him. In that moment, God whispered, “Dispense grace.” Holding back my tears, I asked the Kettle Coordinator to pray. He prayed. I went around shaking everyone’s hand, and pronouncing a blessing on them. When I got to the accused, now repentant worker, I thanked him for his honesty. I told him God forgave him. Who am I not to forgive?
Today I learned something from a bell-ringer – the power of repentance and confession.
Today, I learned something else from God – the power of His amazing, in-exhaustive grace.
Who has wronged you? Who has let you down? Who has stolen from you, robbed you, or destroyed what belongs to you?
Today, I ask you to dispense grace. Give them the gift they do not deserve – grace. Give them some unmerited favor. Forgive them. If God forgave you, who are you not to forgive?