A long time ago in middle school I was talked into stealing from a convenience store. I was hanging out with my band of brothers, well band of four girlfriends in this case. We were led by a very charismatic, very vocal and persuasive leader. We were young, twelvish, chasing puberty, impressionable. So the agreement, we would all go into the PX (postal exchange on the army base) take something to eat that we can all share, meet up and get our grub on. It worked, well almost. Chips...check, candy bars...check....soda....check, and scotch tape....check.
Did I mention I had never stolen anything before in my life? I was so afraid to steal from that store but I was even more afraid of leaving that store without stealing something. At the last possible second, I grabbed the closest thing to me before dashing out....scotch tape.
I am nearly 50 years old and I am in touch with these four friends to this day....they have never let me live it down....ever! That night they rolled on the ground under the stars in complete hysteria at me. After several minutes of this, I snuck back in the store and put the scotch tape back on the shelf. Too much guilt at that tender age.
I often wonder how my life might have been different today if I had actually enjoyed the act of taking something that I had not earned, something that belonged to someone else. Might that night have become the beginning of something less funny, less youthful. I don't know.
I know people who believe that God's forgiveness is complete license to behave badly. They see forgiveness as their get out of jail free card to heaven. So I feel a desire to share one compelling scripture. I draw your attention to one recurring theme. Notice that the bible talks about forgiveness following a past act not future acts. The meaning and insinuation is we should seek forgiveness with a spiritual expectation that we are changed by the grace and forgiveness provided to us. Forgiveness is intended to draw us closer to Christ, not intended to send us backwards in the world of sin.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved-- AMEN