by Douglas Wilson
Once there was a young man who worked for a retail store that was owned by a fellow Christian, and his job was that of a cashier. Although he was tender-hearted, he was also undisciplined and weak-willed, and when he was running short on funds one month, he "borrowed" from the till one day with every intention of paying it back. Of course, his lack of discipline made that impossible, despite his intention, and he was not able to do it.
Some time went by, but one day as his boss was going through the books, the discrepancy was discovered. His boss confronted him, he confessed, and his boss, not surprisingly, fired him. The young man was in agony over this for some days, but after about a week, he borrowed from his parents the amount he had taken, came back to his former boss, gave him the money back, and sought his forgiveness for what he had done.
His boss said that he did forgive him, completely. The air cleared, they had quite a good conversation. At the end of the conversation, the young man asked, quite casually, if he could have his job back. Much to his surprise, his boss shook his head no.
"What do you mean?" the young man asked, before he really had a chance to think. "I thought you forgave me!"
"Well, I did," his boss said. "I am more than willing to come to the Lord’s Supper together with you" (the two attended the same church). "I have not needed to tell the police about what you have done at all."
"But I thought forgiveness meant putting everything back just the way it was before."
"Well, no," his boss said. "It means putting some things back. Like fellowship. But qualifications for fellowship are not the same thing as qualifications for office. Simple forgiveness is all that is necessary for the former. But qualifications for holding office are higher. And if you don’t meet them, and I see that you don’t, it doesn’t mean that I have not forgiven you."
The young man shook his head, confused. "I thought . . ." he began.
His former boss interrupted him. "I have forgiven you," he said, "completely. Nothing stands between us. You have sought forgiveness, and I owe you that forgiveness. But I don’t owe you a job."