by Jeff Kilmartin Pastor
Wiesenthal Baptist Church
Just after midnight the other evening as I was watching the end of an old western, I could tell by the lights shining into our basement rec room that a car had pulled into our driveway. I went upstairs to take a look, and saw a smaller, dark coloured car; it had turned around in the driveway and was sitting there facing the house – I suppose to get a good look. I turned on the outside house lights, and when I came back to the window the car was gone.
Here in Leduc County there has been a rash of break-ins and robberies of one kind or another, with guns, tools, vehicles, and whatnot, all being taken from various neighbours’ homes. Therefore the RCMP asked people to report any suspicious vehicles. Just after midnight, when a car pulls onto my yard, without the people inside coming to ask for help, it automatically becomes a suspicious vehicle, so I phoned the police. They were pretty good; an officer called me back about five minutes later to ask me for a full report of what I had seen, and then they came around to check things out.
All of this raises the questions for me of forgiveness and judgment. As a Christian, what is my responsibility towards my neighbour – both the one in the car, and the one down the road? Let’s assume for simplicity’s sake that there was a single young man, bent on thievery, in the car; according to Jesus, what should my attitude be towards him?
There are those who would immediately remind us that Jesus taught that we should not judge anyone, so this cannot be a matter for judgment. That is a distortion of Jesus’ view. Taken in context, what Jesus taught was to not judge the heart, or motives, of a person – since only God can see the heart, while we cannot. But we are taught to judge a person’s actions to see whether they are morally right or wrong. A young man driving onto my yard, trying to steal things, needs – for his sake – to be judged in the wrong.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbours, whoever they are – including even our enemies, and to pray for them. A thief has made himself my enemy – so how can I best love him?
Each situation will be different, of course, but in general it is true that right judgment is a good thing for all concerned. In the case of this young man, I would hope that he be caught as soon as possible and brought to justice. If he is not, he will only grow incorrigible, and his final judgment will be something very much worse than what he would receive now. Or he may find himself on the wrong end of an angry farmer’s gun one day, and that would be really bad for him. On the other hand, if a good judge convicts him then he can have the opportunity to “see the error of his ways” and change.
What about forgiving him? Forgiveness is a personal matter. I can easily forgive the loss of my own property; that is not a big deal. But I would not lay aside the charges against the young man, because that would be an injustice against all my other neighbours, and it would deprive the young man of the chance to get his life straightened around.
So (given the short space that I have here) this would be my Christian prayer for the “young man” (or whoever it is they are): that he would be caught, brought to true justice (before anything much worse happens to him), have the chance to repent of his godless ways, and get to know a God who loves him despite all he has ever done.
The Pipestone Flyer has invited pastors and reverends from local churches to write a regular column for the paper.