Is it right for an elder to detain a sister in a police station because she collected the elder's ID card and two mobile phones?
Christians are required by God to stop stealing (Ephesians 4:28) and not make a practice of it.
Our interactions regarding Christians and what to do about their sin is different than with a non-believer (I Corinthians 5:9-13). Since this sin was done against another Christian we would follow the steps found in Matthew 18:15-17, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Because this is an issue of breaking the law (most countries condemn stealing) then we would apply the principles found in I Corinthians 6:1-8, "Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."
The idea is the church should be able to judge correctly concerning what should happen when there is a dispute between brethren where one has been wronged and has caused a loss in some way. To go to the world shows a lack of maturity of those in the church and shames God and His people. The elder should have followed steps of Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 6. If the sister refused to repent and return the stolen property then she should have been withdrawn from and that should have been as far as it went.
There could be an exception if the items stolen were not the elder’s personal property. For example: if he worked for the military and another Christian stole the military computer from him, which had confidential information on it, he would follow the steps of Matthew 18 first because this offense was against him. If the Christian would not return the stolen property, then the military would require the elder to report their property stolen and give information to the police to find the culprit. But this is because a believer has brought an offense to the non-believers because it was their property that was stolen and I Corinthians 6 would not apply then.
We should never go first to the worldly authorities as our first reaction but instead go talk to the person and do our best to settle matters in a quiet fashion involving as few people as possible (Proverbs 17:9; Matthew 18:15).
by Alan Feaster