I am not even sure if I had started school yet. I don’t really remember stealing them, but I do remember what happened next. And it was the beginning of how I learned to live forgiven.
Maybe I thought I needed them, or I believed they would work in my toy gun, or maybe I just saw them and thought I should get them. But I do know that we did not pay for them.
A handful of cheap, plastic bullets. Could not have cost more than a few cents.
My mom found them when we got home after the first trip to the store. There was a second trip. The one where I had to return them to the clerk at the check-out. And apologize. And promise to never do it again. I couldn’t just keep them. I couldn’t just go pay for them. I had to confess and apologize.
And it was a great act of Christian parenting. Because that was not the last time I ever did something wrong. So here is what I learned that day about living forgiven, and what I am still trying to live out in my life.
Some things are wrong. Those things are not determined by how I feel about it, but how God feels about it. Scripture is pretty clear about stealing. And lots of other things also.
Own your sin. Confess. Not just that it was wrong, but that you did it. No one made you. No excuses. It was wrong, and you did it.
Repent. I was sorry I had done it, but more than that I learned I had to do something about it. I returned the bullets and said I was sorry. It was embarrassing and humiliating. Sort of hurt my feelings. But I learned that God’s feelings were also hurt by what I did.
Forgiveness is real. My mom still loved me. God forgave me. It was all going to be okay. And God still loved me.
Do better from then on. Don’t do it again. Be careful about temptation.
Most important of all: I learned that what matters most is not always what you do, but how you react to what you do.
Sometimes I still do things I shouldn’t. Or don’t do things I should. So I admit they are wrong. I confess I did it. I repent. And I live forgiven.
And as a church leader, this is what I teach my people.