When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 1
A Bad Day for Chad
by Greg Wright
It was Wednesday night, time to leave for Royal Rangers, but it was all Commander Dave could do to make himself get into his car. "Let's go Dad or we'll be late," Buzzy, Commander Dave's son, prodded.
Dave was the leader for the Pioneer boys, ages 9 through 11. He single-handedly commanded eight to fifteen boys; attendance varying with the weather and the time of year. Most of the boys came only because their parents brought them. Very few of them seriously worked on their advancements. One boy was different, however; his name was Chad. Not only had he already earned the Long Rifle advancement, but he had a good start on winning Ranger of The Year for his section and district. But tonight, Chad would have to stay home.
"Will Chad ever get to come back to Rangers?" Buzzy asked his dad as they drove to church.
"I don't know; it's up to his parents."
"It doesn't make sense to take Chad out of Rangers," Buzzy complained, "Rangers doesn't teach you to steal."
"I know," Commander Dave responded, "but shop lifting is a serious thing. It is embarrassing to the person when he gets caught, but it is also very embarrassing to the parents. I would imagine that they're not sure what to do."
"I'll miss him," Buzzy continued. "You'll miss him too, won't you Dad. After all, he was sort of your favorite pioneer."
An angry scowl from Commander Dave quickly relayed to Buzzy that he had said the wrong thing.
"I'm sorry Dad, I guess I shouldn't have said that, but you know it's true."
"Buzzy, you don't know how hard it is to serve as a Rangers commander when most of the kids don't care. Sometimes, the only thing that really motivated me was knowing that Chad would be there and that, even if no one else had even thought about Rangers since the last meeting, Chad would have something to have checked off."
"I care, Dad."
"Yes Buzzy, I know you care sometimes. If I nag you or bribe you, I can get you to care for a little while. But, at some point I decided that your advancements didn't mean anything if I had to manipulate you in order to get you to work on them."
Buzzy looked down, sadly.
"Well, in any case, the parents like you; I've heard them say as much."
"Yes, they like me as long as everything goes smoothly. But if something goes wrong, they'll jump down my throat in a heartbeat."
"Yeah," Buzzy agreed, "I heard what Chad's dad said to you."
"Oh Buzzy, I'm sorry you heard all that. Try to forget those awful words. It is amazing, Chad's father blames Rangers for not teaching Chad to be honest. He's convinced that Scouts would have done a better job."
"That's crazy!" Buzzy exclaimed. "The Scout Law teaches you to be trustworthy, but so does the Ranger Code. Chad had to memorize the code before he could even wear a uniform. He knows that a Royal Ranger is honest and that he does not lie, cheat, or steal!"
"You're right, Buzzy, but some men can't be reasoned with when they are angry. But, never mind that, we're here." Commander Dave said as he slowly pulled into the church parking lot, carefully dodging the Pioneers who waited to escort Buzzy away.
Commander Dave had hoped for a change of subject, but discussion of Chad continued as the boys settled into the Pioneer classroom. Perhaps it had to do with being in a small town. In any case, it was soon apparent that the whole church knew that Chad had been caught shop lifting.
"Turns out Super Brain isn't so cool after all," Joey whispered.
"Yeah, my parents said that I won't be able to go over to his house anymore," Jeremy continued. "They quoted some verse in the Bible about bad company corrupting good morals."
"Imagine that, merit freak turned out rotten. He really thought he was something." Declared Ben.
"Hey, at least he never hurt anyone," Buzzy challenged. "He's not all bad."
"Oh yeah," Joey taunted, "I'll bet if WalMart sold merit badges, he'd steal them."
The whole class laughed, except for Commander Dave and Buzzy.
Commander Dave looked away towards the aquarium in the corner of the classroom, as he tried to gather his thoughts. He prayed silently with his eyes open. As he prayed, he remembered how that two weeks ago one of the guppies in the aquarium had given birth. But now, only three of the young guppies remained. The class had been disgusted that the mother guppy would eat her young. Were these the same boys who now took great delight in devouring their fallen fellow ranger?
Commander Dave rose to call the boys to attention. Half the class ignored him. Finally, he hit the table in front of him with his fist. Then, with a soft but trembling voice, he told the boys to sit down and that anyone talking out of turn would be sent out of the classroom, to sit with their parents in the sanctuary.
The boys knew better than to mess with Commander Dave when his voice was trembling; no one made a sound.
"If one thing is clear here tonight," Commander Dave continued, "it is that we need to pray. Perhaps you're thinking that we need to pray for Chad. Well that's certainly true. However, before you set out to take the speck out of Chad's eye, as the parable implies, you need to ask God to remove the beam out of your own eyes. You need to pray for yourselves, and I don't mean just to mouth some words. We need to fall on our faces and beg God for his mercy."
"Christians are known for their love," Commander Dave continued. "According to First John, one of the signs of whether a person's Christianity is real is whether he loves people. There's no love here. Your hearts are cold, jealous, and selfish. You are just like the Pharisees who brought the harlot before Jesus to be stoned. Yes, Jesus knew that she deserved death, but he also knew how bad the Pharisees were. He challenged the one who was without sin to cast the first stone. Embarrassed, they left her with Jesus."
"The focus of this story is usually on Jesus showing love for the harlot and contempt for the Pharisees. Certainly, that's part of it. But I tell you that Jesus was also showing love for the Pharisees. He did the most loving thing he could do for them; he made them aware of their sin. The only way for them to know how much they needed Jesus was for them to know how bad they were."
Guys, I love you more than you could possibly realize. But the most loving thing I can do for you tonight, is beg The Holy Spirit to use my words to show you how bad you are, so that you will turn to Jesus."
"For example, consider this: are you any better than the Pharisees; are you any better than Chad? You might answer that you've never stolen anything. Are you sure?"
"Have you ever longed to have something that belonged to someone else? Have you ever looked at something in a department store and imagined what you would have to do to sneak away with it?"
"Would you argue that this is not stealing? Okay, we'll use the terms envy and covetousness. It's forbidden in the 10th commandment. But consider this: just like thirst leads to drinking, just like hunger leads to eating; envy leads to stealing."
"If you continue to hunger and thirst after things that belong to someone else, you are just a step away from stealing, just like Chad. Indeed the very seeds of theft, via envy and covetousness, have already been planted in your hearts."
Then Commander Dave walked over to the aquarium and pulled out a large stone and placed it on the table before the boys. Water dripped everywhere. Some of it ran off the table onto the laps of the boys and onto the floor.
"Can any of you honestly say that you are innocent of covetousness?"
As Commander Dave looked around, all of the boys except Ben looked down.
"Here is a fairly large stone. Will the person in this room who has never coveted take this stone home with you. Take it and keep it so that the next time you see Chad, you can throw it at him."
Ben reached forward to take the stone. The other boys looked at him in disbelief. Then Ben's own conscience reminded him of all the evil things the other boys knew about him that even Commander Dave didn't know. Embarrassed, Ben left the stone where it was and tried to dry his hands on his pants.
Finally, Joey broke the silence. "I guess seeing Chad mess up did make me feel better about myself. It was an ugly thing. God forgive me."
"I knew stealing was wrong," Jeremy remarked. "But I never thought much about covetousness. I never considered that stealing might start there."
"That's me, too," Commented Billy. "We all covet. Chad is the one who got caught, but if covetousness leads to stealing, it could have been any one of us."
Finally, the kids prayed. They prayed for Chad. But, they also prayed for themselves and for God's forgiveness.
Then, Commander Dave declared an extended time of recreation. He let them choose the game. They chose to play battle ball and divided into teams.
Commander Dave walked away from the game, and Buzzy stepped aside to join him.
"What, they got you out already?" Commander Dave asked in surprise.
"We've got to talk," Buzzy declared uneasily.
"Is something wrong, Buzzy?"
Buzzy's eyes filled with tears. "Dad, I was with Chad when he tried to steal the tape."
"Really, did you try to talk him out of it?" Commander Dave asked, hopefully.
"Dad, he was stealing the tape for me. I should have told him no, but when he saw how much I wanted and coveted that tape, he was determined to steal it for me. I could have talked him out of it, but somehow, I convinced myself that it would be okay to steal, this once. After all, that same store once gave me less change than I was due. I let Chad down as a friend, and I have done even more harm than the guys who cut him down tonight."
Commander Dave stepped back. His face flushed red hot, with anger, and he instinctively clinched his fists. His jaw set firm in disapproval while he stared at his son in disbelief.
"The tears continued to flow down Buzzy's face as he looked into his father's eyes and asked, "Dad, will I go to Hell now? Will God forgive even this?"
Suddenly, Commander Dave's face softened, and his own hands opened, as if he himself had dropped a large stone. Then he gently held Buzzy by the shoulders and drew him close.
"Son, do you remember when you first realized that you needed Jesus. Do you remember how you struggled with whether your conversion experience was real, with whether God had really changed you. One of the signs of a true Christian, according to First John, is that though you will sin, you will not continue in sin. In fact, that same book says that if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you. What you did was a terrible thing, but God's grace is greater than anything you could ever do. Pray now. Even now, Jesus stands ready to hear your prayer. Indeed, Jesus is never so close as when you realize your own sinfulness."
Commander Dave could barely hear Buzzy's words, as he cried and prayed at the same time. Of course Commander Dave prayed, too. But then this occurred to him. As he watched the kids playing in the distance, he considered that it often is a great hassle to be a Rangers commander. He could be reading books and taking courses that would make him more successful in his profession. He could be moon lighting at another job, building up cash reserves for a rainy day. But all that paled next to having the privilege of being God's instrument of peace, in this special time in the lives of Buzzy, Chad, and the others. And for now, he was sure that there was no other place he would rather be.