Years ago, a small, struggling church in Florida learned–to their chagrin–that they had hired a convicted felon as their secretary. She would soon be thrown into jail for embezzling as much as $150,000 from her former employer who was a federal judge.
The pastor was new to the church and young. He met with his board of elders and a plan was drawn up. As a church, it appeared they had no choice. They had to fire her. No apology. No explanation. After all, they were a church.
Yet, God had a different plan and He interceded. The board decided to not fire the unrepentant felon. After announcing her situation on Sunday morning, the congregation agreed to take her in and love her. They arranged her work program. Traveling 75 miles each day for weeks to pick her up from jail and carry her back to jail, they gave her chance after chance.
Careful not to allow her to handle money, they went the second, third and fourth mile with her. After several years, the secretary left her position for a more lucrative spot. Within a year, she was arrested for embezzling from her new employer.
A waste of time and energy? Never. In the interim, a practical plan for redemption in action was worked into the hearts of the people in the congregation and the community responded.
The tone, attitude and atmosphere of this small church has been set. They are known as a congregation which cooperates with God in bringing redemption into broken lives.
As the church, we daily face many choices. However, one choice may be essential. While judgment and justice begin at the house of God, God’s mercy always overrides his justice. As we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11, we stand, as a people, at a crossroads. Once justice has been served, the natural inclination is to push the offender against the wall and demand another pound of flesh. Will we, however, become a community desiring redemption.
There is a lost, dying and hurting world outside the doorsteps of our sacred homes and churches. What will they find should they stagger through our doorways?