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A stolen guitar, vengeance, sin, and grace

A few weeks ago, my guitar was stolen. My parents gave this particular guitar to me 13 years ago as a graduation present, so it held a lot of personal value. I’d made a bonehead mistake and left it sitting in the backseat of my car. The thieves smashed my window, grabbed the guitar, and made off without being seen. Having something stolen from you is shaking, disconcerting. As I’ve processed over these last few weeks, several lines of thinking have been bouncing around in my mind.

1. Vengeance is God’s

As I chronicled the saga of trying to recover my guitar on social media, I was surprised just how many comments came back along the lines of “Let’s go get the bad guys!” or “Hope he gets his face smashed in.” While most of these were very obviously tongue-in-cheek, the point was made: we know that justice needs to be served. I would be dishonest if I said that I didn’t have some of those same thoughts myself. (Yes, this pastor had sinful thoughts of vengeance.)

But Hebrews 10:30–31 says, “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Ultimately, we are invited to trust God’s perfect justice. For all of us who repent of our sins, the wrath that we deserve was poured out on Jesus at the cross. For those who do not repent, justice will be served for them in hell. Either way, it is God’s place to judge, not mine.

2. Store up treasures in heaven

Even though this guitar is special to me, I know that one day, best-case scenario, I will die and the guitar will go to someone else. All of our possessions are temporary in nature and vulnerable. Having my guitar stolen was a great reminder of the truth that Jesus spoke in Matthew 6: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

3. Sin is a violation

Anyone who has been the victim of theft can tell you that it feels violating. In this situation, my own sense of security has been throttled. Before mankind fell into sin, God created man to live in perfect peace with him. The Hebrew Bible calls this state of perfection shalom. At the fall, shalom was shattered. Peace with God was destroyed.

Even though we live in a fallen world and we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re sinned against, deep down we know that things are broken and this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. We were created to live in God’s perfect shalom. All sin—from something relatively minor like my guitar being stolen to something egregious like sexual assault—is a violation of God’s perfect shalom. We need a Savior to redeem our fallenness and to restore peace.

4. God’s timing is perfect

Over the last few weeks, I (not so) patiently waited for the police as they tried to track down the thieves. At many points, I wanted to work faster than the police, to take matters into my own hands, and to take shortcuts past the necessary steps. Even once I saw my stolen guitar on Craigslist, I found myself increasingly frustrated as I was forced to wait for a reply email.

It’s easy to fall into a mentality that says, “Right now!” We’re a microwave culture and we want what we want immediately. Yes, we are called by God to work hard and be productive. Yes, we must put laziness to death by the power of the Spirit. Yes, we should seek to be efficient stewards of the time God has given to us. However, I think one of the reasons the Bible uses so many agricultural metaphors is to remind us that God often uses the passage of time to bring about his purposes.

Why did God send Jesus exactly when he did and not sooner? Ultimately, I don’t know. But I do know that when God did send his Son, it was the perfect time (Gal. 4:4–5) and now I’ve received the blessing of adoption as a son of God.

5. Grace, grace, grace

Perhaps the most important thing for me to remember during this whole process is that apart from the grace of God, I am every bit as deserving of judgment as these thieves. In fact, I’ve been a thief. I’m a glory-stealer. Honor and praise that is rightfully due to God, I’ve taken for myself.

When I remember that God sent Jesus to die for me while I was still an enemy of God (Rom. 5:8), it helps me to have a heart of grace toward these people who stole from me. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and to work for their good (Matt. 5:44)—this is impossible without first understanding that Jesus has already done exactly that for us (Eph. 2:13).

Recently, my guitar was returned to me after I worked with the Federal Way police to track down the bad guys. (In fact, I ended up going with the police to a sting operation that was only slightly more exciting than my usual Monday afternoon meeting with Pastor Bubba.) Today, I can honestly say that I want God’s grace for these thieves. By no means have I “arrived,” but God is helping my heart to move in the direction of grace.

I am in awe of our God who can use any situation for his glory and our joy.

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