What Would You Do?

Steve Wolfgang

What follows is fictional, of course. According to some, it is pure fantasy. Indeed, it is imaginary.

As many have said, the truth is often "stranger than fiction." Consider the following hypothetical situation:

Imagine a scenario in which you employ a trusted friend of long standing to watch over your home while you are away on a trip. You leave her the key to your house, with a few instructions and authorization to come into the house to check on its condition.

Upon your return, you discover that many items are missing from your house, mostly items of value that would not be noticeable to anyone who did not know where to look for them. Despite your initial disbelief and consternation, it becomes obvious you have been the victim of the crime of theft by this trusted, long-time friend.

• What would you do? Would you call the police to report this obvious crime? Isn’t this what most people, including Christians, would do upon discovering such a theft?

But imagine further that this friend is also a fellow Christian. Imagine that you decide that, rather than immediately report this crime to the police, you should first go to your sister and friend to resolve this problem privately, if possible.

Imagine that when confronted, this sister/friend finally makes a confession of sorts after attempting to deflect the responsibility by talking about her "depression" and other excuses. She also pledges to make restitution of what has obviously been stolen.

Imagine your shock and dismay when you go to the bank within the next few days and discover that this trusted friend and sister had stolen other assets, having gained access to your bank account numbers and passwords due to the trust you placed in her by giving her access to your property.

The amount you now realize has been stolen from you is several times greater than what your sister/friend originally admitted, even though it is obvious by now that she was well aware of the much larger scale of the theft when she made her original "confession."

• What would you do? Would you now call the police, or do you again try to confront your sister/friend personally in an attempt to resolve this theft as Christians should be able to? What should you do?

Imagine your sense of betrayal, and your grief over the loss of a long-term friendship. Imagine also the sense of personal violation in having been defrauded. While you still have some of your assets, your ability to pay your bills is impaired, and funds that you perhaps had planned to use for your children’s future benefit have been stolen — by a fellow "Christian."

Even so, unwilling to take personal vengeance, and sue your sister in a civil suit to recover what she stole, you offer several alternative proposals for restitution (at "pennies on the dollar," not demanding even that the entire amount be repaid, since it is obvious that it is so large — imagine that it exceeds $100,000 — that it will never be fully repaid).

Imagine now that your sister totally ignores your initiatives, leaving the state without even acknowledging your attempts to settle the matter privately.

• What would you do? Should you allow this sister to freely go her own way without taking full responsibility for her criminal behavior, or even acknowledging the extent of her crime? Imagine that she might seek to do the same with other unsuspecting people, even with other fellow-Christians. What is your responsibility if you help cover up these sins and crimes, potentially placing others at risk? What should you do?

• More importantly, are you contributing to this sister’s spiritual delinquency, keeping her soul at risk by enabling her to deny full responsibility for her behavior? Without accepting complete responsibility, truly repenting without excuse or equivocation, and sincerely attempting to right the wrongs, will God forgive her? Would you leave her unaccountable with her soul in jeopardy? What should you do?

Imagine that you decide to call the police and report these crimes. Imagine that after they conduct their investigation, the result is that the state — performing its divinely-ordained function to punish evildoers per Romans 13 — indicts her and decides to prosecute such felonies.

Imagine that, when confronted with a trial date, this sister pleads guilty to multiple charges of theft rather than go to trial to "have her day in court" and attempt to defend her innocence.

Then imagine that, while awaiting the court’s sentence, this sister — with help from her family and a few close friends — makes her "defense" by circulating letters to churches which attempt to diminish her guilt, omitting many relevant facts and mis-stating others.

Imagine that these letters attempt to make it appear that it is your fault that she stole (implying that since you gave her the key to your house, she was authorized to access your bank accounts to pay her "expenses," or that you were too trusting and should have been more vigilant and suspicious), and that it is your fault that the state prosecuted her crimes.

Imagine that she invokes emotional images of her innocent children who will suffer because of her punishment for the crimes she committed, and attempts to make you the culprit for putting this poor woman in jail.

Imagine also that some brethren buy into this national "victim mentality" in which criminal perpetrators are seen as the innocent "victims" rather than those who are truly victimized by their crimes. Imagine that several such brethren — without extending the common courtesy (to say nothing of brotherly kindness) to call or contact you to ascertain the veracity of such allegations — begin to circulate e-mails far and wide, post letters in churches filled with half-truths and significant omissions, and attempt to absolve this sister while placing the blame for her condition on you, rather than on her own behaviors.

• What would you do?

• What would you say to others who confront you, having heard only her version of the "truth?"

• What would you do? What should you do??

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