After a burglar broke into the offices of Hope City Church in Harrisburg, North Carolina, last week and stole cash from two safes, the house of worship reacted in the most surprising of ways, publishing a public message of forgiveness to the perpetrator and pledging not to press charges.
“We’re not angry, upset, or frustrated at you. WE COMPLETELY FORGIVE YOU…COMPLETELY,” Pastor Robbie McLaughlin wrote on the church’s Facebook page. “While it’s important for us to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety and stewardship of our church and it’s resources, we have NO intention of pressing charges against you.”
Some might be surprised by this reaction, but the pastor explained his reasoning in detail. Considering that the robbery took place between Dec. 25-27, McLaughlin said that the individual responsible must have been pretty desperate.
“We realize that for you to rob a church, on CHRISTMAS no less, you must be in a pretty desperate situation, and our heart breaks for you,” the pastor’s message continued.
McLaughlin then moved on to offer up a lesson from the Christian gospel, asking the individual to turn him or herself in, but, again, pledging not to go to authorities to press charges.
“In the sixth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that if someone steals your coat, take your shirt, and give it to them as well. This is because Jesus’ greatest desire for His followers is to be moved with compassion towards desperate and hurting people…because that’s the heart and character of His father,” he wrote. “So in keeping with the command of our savior, and because our heart truly does go out to you, we would like to ask you to come forward and turn yourself in.”
McLaughlin said that the church wants to help the individual who felt the need to take the money, reiterating that leaders will not notify the police, nor will they publicly shame the person responsible, keeping the confession entirely private.
“We want to help. For you to take the measures you did, against a church who recently collected a BENEVOLENCE OFFERING, you obviously need some support during a very desperate season of your life,” he continued. “And we want to be that support. If you need food, we want to provide grocery gift cards. If you need temporary housing, we want to help you find it. If you need counseling, or to get into any type of rehabilitation program, we want to pay for it. Whatever you need, we desperately want to help.”
But McLaughlin said that the church simply can’t help if no one comes forward, pledging to unconditionally “love,” “serve” and “care” for the individual responsible.
“Give us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in your life, and we promise, you won’t regret it,” he concluded. “And to our church family, we ask that throughout this process, you too extend intentional grace, patience, and prayers for wisdom for your church leaders as we all together seek to navigate this situation with the heart of Jesus, a heart that was moved with compassion for the very people that nailed him to a tree.”
Church officials believe that the theft was done at the hands of someone who is familiar with Hope City Church’s codes and systems, as a lock box that was compromised showed no signs of damage and was left open without a key; the key was used to open the office door.
Most of the money that had been in the safes was from a recent offering and had already deposited in the bank, leaving the perpetrator with just under $500 in cash, the church said; no other items were taken from inside the office or the church.
McLaughlin said that he’s hoping that the church’s message to the thief reaches him or her.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.
Follow the author of this story on Twitter and Facebook: