“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:29).
Here’s a hypothetical situation: A man comes up behind you a little too closely in a grocery store. Seconds later, you realize your wallet is missing. You’re pretty sure he took it. What would you do? I’d want to track down the man and indignantly demand he give it back. What I’d likely do is tell the store manager what happened so he or she could alert security or the cops. Offering to pay for the thief’s groceries would be far down my list.
But that’s exactly what Jessica Eaves did. While this United Way employee, full-time college student, wife, and mother of four was shopping at an Oklahoma grocery store, she noticed a man behind her. After Eaves realized her wallet was gone, she suspected the man was the culprit. Eaves caught up with him and offered the man a choice: He could give her back her wallet and she’d pay for his groceries or she’d call the cops.
“He reached into his hoodie pocket and gave me my wallet,” Eaves told Yahoo Shine. “He started crying when we walked up to the front. He said he was sorry about 20 times by the time we went from the pickle aisle to the front. He told me he was desperate. … The last thing he said was, ‘I’ll never forget tonight. I’m broke, I have kids, I’m embarrassed and I’m sorry.’” Eaves, who leads her church’s Christian outreach team, added, “Some people are critical because I didn’t turn him in, but sometimes all you need is a second chance.”
The thief apologized. He cried. He has a conscience. Luke 6:29 doesn’t teach that Christians shouldn’t try to retrieve their stolen property, but Eaves’ point is clear: What she did with the grocery store pickpocket was to show him grace, as Christ has shown to His children (and the common grace He has shown to all).
The swift-punishment-for-lawbreakers side of me would see the man handcuffed and hauled off to jail. Feeding his family was no excuse for taking what didn’t belong to him. But then comes the conviction: I’ve taken things that didn’t belong to me. Christ took on the punishment I deserve, and He was merciful to forgive. What a testimony Eaves gave this man by not only forgiving him but also feeding him. The bread of life, indeed. He’ll never forget her kindness, and if he’s unsaved, perhaps the Holy Spirit will begin convicting him of this and innumerable sins. Let’s pray that this act of thievery will be the last he ever commits.
Sometimes Christians overemphasize God’s love and downplay His wrath. Others do the opposite. The message of God’s righteous anger toward sinners dominates to the detriment of the message of love for those He came to save. Both are crucial elements of the gospel. Acts of kindness like Eaves’ happen every day, and they’re a small example of what God is doing every day: forgiving sins and redeeming the sinner.