I live in a neighborhood with an active HOA and Community Facebook page. The community has a beautiful pool and tennis facility and they work hard to maintain it for the use of its members. The other night some inebriated high school boys jumped the fence during the middle of a thunderstorm and dumped $7,500 worth of brand new pool furniture into the salt water pool. Their actions damaged the furniture beyond repair. They also shattered glass-top tables in the pool and consequently the pool is now closed until it can be drained and all the glass is removed.
The boys were caught via surveillance cameras and after their pictures were posted on the internet and on the walls of the community pavilion they admitted to their wrong-doing. One of the young men live in the neighborhood and the other two were his visitors.
Needless to say, this little incident has sparked quite the conversation among my neighbors and on Facebook. Many people voiced their opinions regarding how the situation should be handled. Should the boys face criminal charges or should they simply be allowed to pay for the damages (in access of $10k) and do a little community service?
With an outpouring of opinion several community members used the incident as a vehicle to preach about the power of forgiveness. They quoted the bible verse, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone..." John 8:7 to explain why we as a community should forgive the young men and not press charges.
This notion of forgiveness got me thinking, forgiveness and consequence are two completely different things. Forgiveness is a verb, an action. It takes work on the part of the person forgiving. It's a personal decision of the mind and heart. Consequence on the other hand is a noun. It is the thing that directly follows an action. For example, the consequence of me sitting out in the sun too long without sunscreen is sunburn. The consequence working out is a healthier body. Therefore a consequence is a thing completely separate from forgiveness. These should not be confused.
When Christ challenges us to forgive I believe he's asking us to alter our minds and open our hearts, to love and forgive like he loves and forgives us. I do not believe he says that we should live life without consequence nor do I think he says that we should offer that life to others. In this case, I can forgive the young men for their immaturity and irresponsibility. However, the consequence of the boys action is that they committed a felony and therefore should be charged under the judicial system. I do not think I am wrong or unchristian when I say that they need to face the consequence(s) dictated by our courts, I think I am being fair to the boys.
I believe confusion between the two things, forgiveness and consequence, has caused issues for young people. Parents have confused raising their children in a Godly home with alleviating them of all responsibility for their wrongdoing. We shouldn't encourage young people to live in a world without consequence for their actions. We, as parents, need to hold our children accountable for their actions (easier said than done, I know.) I'm no biblical scholar but I believe Christ gave us freewill so that we can make choices, both good and bad, that carry consequences and I don't think consequences should be ignored in the name of forgiveness.
Do you think my stance on this issue is wrong? I'd love to know your thoughts.