During the high school lunch break, a freshman decided to kick the backside of the Kingsburg First Baptist's marquee.
Long story short, he was caught, in the act, by the police. The police called the church office and our Youth Minister, Chris Miller walked down to the scene of the crime. A KPD officer called me on my cell and I stopped by the scene. (I mediate with juvenile offenders and their victims in the Kingsburg area.)
There in front of us was a clueless young man standing on the curb with two uniformed officers asking him questions as they jotted down notes. One of the officers asked me if I had any questions for the young man. I just asked the classic victim question, "Why?" To which he answered with the classic offender response, "I don't know." With a little more coaxing, he sheepishly said he had the idea that maybe he could create some new words on the sign by kicking it with his foot and knocking letters off the sign. [Maybe this was a new way to cite "footnotes." :-) Sorry.]
One of the officers implied that the church could press trespassing charges if we wanted. He also said that maybe the youth could do something to right the wrong - like replace the letters on the sign. We talked for a moment and it was mutually agreed that the young man would return after school and fix the sign. Chris Miller told the young man to come to the church office.
That afternoon, the "offender" came to the office just as he promised. Chris and the young man walked down to the sign, replaced the letters, and talked about what happened.
Pastor Chris pointed out the obvious. We are a product of our decisions, think before acting, and everyone has made poor decisions. But he also reminded the youth that he deserved a second chance and that he was not totally defined by this immature act.
The young man broke a law, but he also broke a relationship that needed mending. As a church, we are always looking for ways to give away the church to the community. Faithful church members serve the high-school students lunch. Our basketball court is available to the public - true, we have had to set some boundaries, but it is available. Students use our picnic tables and even the church's front steps as a place to eat lunch. All in all, there is an invitation to students from the church to use church property and all we ask for is respect. This agreement really is an unspoken "social contract" based on trust.
So, this freshman broke a trusting relationship with the church. Graciously, instead of punishing the child, the police and the church decided to give him an opportunity to make it right. This was an act of grace - a step of restorative "street justice" that placed a higher value on restoring the relationship than the law being broken.
This is a modest example of living in redemptive community.