A Lesson on Dispensing Grace

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?

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