This morning after a brief hearing in court I watched as a previous employee was fingerprinted by the sherriff and escorted off to jail. It largely brings to a close a nightmare we have been living quietly for almost two years. She confessed to having misappropriated fiduciary assets of St. Christopher's in the amount of over $81,000. She will be in prison for a total of six months, then she will be parolled for 10 years. During that time she must make no contact with the Church, pay restitution of all losses, and serve 350 days of community service. Initial payment was made to the church in the amount of $590.
Feelings are certainly mixed. On the one hand, there is relief that this is finally in the final stages. We do not really hope to get much money back, the woman has no real skills and now she has a record. Without authority to garnish wages there is no guarantee we will see much money. It's easy to sweep it under the rug and move on. But there is also the anger and sadness, the sense of betrayal and outrage that linger. This event helps, but in the end the resolution of those feelings has to do with what goes in inside us, not outside.
As Christians we talk about forgiveness. Is it forgiving to be glad when justice is served as it was today? The illustrious and martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer would disagree in his book, The Cost of Discipleship. He says we should love our enemies and serve them as a brother or sister. He would have us have the conditions of her parole changed so that we could provide for her the opportunity for the community service hours. He might even say that, claiming a Christian faith like ours, we should never have taken her to law. But we didn't do that, and I feel no remorse for what we did.
No, forgiveness does not forget the past, but requires the best of us. Facing the reality of the past, we refuse to get caught up in the negative emotions of it, we refuse to let the wrong control us, and we decide very deliberately to take appropriate risks again. Risks of what? Reengagement in a way that respects the past and gives opportunity for redemption in the future. We cannot contact her, the law bars us from doing so. But we can simply move on, refusing to drag behind us the intolerable burden of resentment that is so temptingly at hand. In this case she must, with her God, seek reconciliation on the level she can, and to make restitution as is required. In this case we must put in place the controls we have and stick to them, be more realistic about human nature without getting cynical, and focus again on the mission and ministry God has granted us in this time and place.
I don't know what redemption will look like for this situation, but God does. Forgiveness is willing to wait for God to reveal it at the proper time.