Yesterday’s adventure began – as so many good adventures do – with a call from our friendly neighborhood pawnshop. They called our media guy right at 5 asking about a projector with one of our company tags on it. We hadn’t sold any projectors out of our library, and when they read the serial number off the sticker over the phone, we knew it was hot. The pawn shop had the projector in the back “testing” it, and the two guys who brought it in were still in the shop waiting, oblivious that they had been found out.
So three of us jumped in the car and sped down Dunklin to Family Pawn (what exactly makes it “Family”?). We beat the police by about 3 minutes so we “shopped for guns” until they arrived (they have a great selection). When they got there, they quietly walked up behind the two suspects and cuffed them before they knew anything was going on. It was quite exciting.
The two suspects weren’t saying much (other than obscenities… lots and lots of obscenities) and the cops escorted them to two separate squad cars with the windows rolled down so they could keep on shouting back and forth across the parking lot.
They interviewed Media Guy and took a statement. The projector was worth about $950. Not a huge amount, but it’s more than $50 so it was more than enough to throw a serious kink into the two suspects plans for the foreseeable future (in a convenient twist of fate, county jail is right across the street from our building). They claimed a third party stole it (they didn’t know where/when/from whom), but that was all they were saying. The embarrassing thing was although we could confirm that it was indeed our property, we had no idea it was missing, how long it had been missing or where on earth they could have gotten it. Our check out procedures are a little lax so there no telling who had it last or who was responsible for it when it was taken.
After a call to our executive director, it was decided we would not press charges. Everybody walked out of the pawn shop and over to the squad cars, where the cops took off the hand cuffs and told the two 19-year-old kids they were free to go. They were very confused. In fact, they argued with the cops a little bit. “Why? We stole it!” The cops explained that the projector was owned by a Christian organization, and they had decided to err on the side of mercy this time.
At this point, the two young men who had been so combative and cold started shaking and blubbering. They both ran to our Media Guy and shook his hand, thanking him profusely. After the cops finally convinced them they were free to go, they took off walking down the street. The cops left, the pawn shop guy went inside and we took off. (Apparently the pawn shop owner lives for this kind of thing. It had been two weeks since his last “bust” and he was a little sad they were off the hook.)
I drove over there separately so I headed on to my house while our Media Guy drove back to our office. A few blocks away, he pulled up behind the two guys walking home. He pulled up a long side them an starting talking to them.
Apparently they were still really confused. I’ve never really been in that situation, but I’m pretty sure I’d be confused too. After he gave a fatherly “wrong crowd” speech, they asked again him why we weren’t pressing charges. He began to explain about mercy and grace, and that he had received mercy for a lot of stupid stuff he’d done in the past, so he was showing a little bit toward them. From there he launched right into the Roman Road and the background for mercy they’d just seen: God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The young men were very receptive and listened to him for a long time. They asked about where he went to church. He gave them his business card and offered to take them to lunch sometime.
I’m not 100 percent sure how I would have reacted if it were my decision whether or not to press charges, but I am fairly certain that I wouldn’t have given criminals – dumb criminals at that – my business card. But hey, I’m still proud of Media Guy for following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in that situation. My gut reaction would have been to keep them as far away from me, my property and my church as possible. As logical as my gut reaction might be, it may not have been the right thing. God doesn’t ask us to be stupid or put ourselves in unnecessary danger, but He does have a long, long history of forgiving and being patient with those least deserving of grace, especially when His people are least inclined to give it. I’m not sure I could/would have done things the same way, but I think maybe Media Guy did the right thing. Of course, it helps that he was/is packing.
Brian’s Six Laws of Stolen Property and Mercy:
- Even though we don’t deserve it, mercy and grace is a great thing (Romans 5:8).
- Even though people don’t deserve it from us, mercy and grace can be a great thing (Matthew 18).
- Be ready in season and out of season to share the Gospel.
- Being a cop would be very depressing. It’s not all high-speed chases and shooting cold-blooded murderers as they try to flee; sometimes you have to spend half the day in an old pawn shop on Dunklin Street.
- Don’t sell stolen property for someone, taking all the risk for a tiny share of the potential reward. (Collalary: You could probably get a better price on eBay anyway.)
- If you must sell stolen property for someone, take off the freakin’ “Property of ________” sticker.