Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting stories about my father, or stories my father liked to share.Some time in the late 1930s -- I think, and the year really doesn't matter so much -- my grandfather walked out of church to an unwelcome discovery. His car was missing.
"Don't worry boys, they won't get far. I'm out of gas," my grandfather told his sons. He then dispatched one son in each direction to search for the missing car.
The car was found quickly enough, I think about seven miles east of town on Highway 78, on the side of the road out of gas. Standing nearby were two runaways from Somerville, Tenn., aged 16 and 17.
I'm not sure how these boys were corralled, but they were, and were brought to my grandfather. And he did what anybody would do under the circumstances: he had the boys over for Sunday dinner.
He told the boys they needed to call their parents, but they pleaded to be allowed to spend the night before making the dreaded phone call. My grandfather relented. The next day they pleaded to again spend one more night. I'm sure my grandfather found some chores for them to do.
On the evening of the second day my grandfather insisted that they call home and arrange to be picked up the next day. He had shown the boys mercy, but it was time for them to face their parents' justice.
When my father told me this story, I couldn't help but think that very few of us today would ever consider bringing teenagers who had just stolen our car home for dinner, much less providing room and board for two days. Today most of us would call the sheriff and insist that the teenagers be prosecuted as adults.
I have no idea how these two teenagers turned out. Perhaps they came to a bad end. But my grandfather's act of mercy cost him nothing. Their crime only cost him a bit of aggravation. And perhaps this act of mercy allowed them to escape jail or a criminal record and have successful lives. My grandfather was willing to forgive a rather grievous sin that most of us simply could not forgive.
I think my father and his siblings learned from my grandfather's acts of mercy. And I think all of us can as well.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.