Sunday October 23, 2016
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Let’s make it right, Friend.
Many years ago, when I was in the early stages of my life-long recovery from addiction, I was told to make a list of persons I had harmed and then make amends to them all. It seemed a monumental task. As I think back on it, I remember two particular folks. Both had at some point been my supervisor on the job. I had been pretty hard on both of them, letting them down repeatedly, being dishonest, and then speaking harshly about them to others. Now I had to ask their forgiveness. The first was a Christian lady, or so she said. I expected her to be the easy one, but she was very angry with me, refusing to accept my apology. The second was definitely not a Christian, and I had actually cost him a job along the way by my evil-speaking. When I went to him, he wept and hugged me, then thanked me for my candor. I learned that I could not predict results, only do what I needed to do and trust God.
In Christian-world, we often avoid the work of making amends in the natural by appealing to the forgiveness that is ours through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank God for His forgiveness, but in order to live free in the earth realm, we have to clean up our mess, attempt to reconcile relationships, and make some attempt to restore what we have stolen from others: their time, their goods, their peace of mind. Under the Old Covenant, this was clear (Lev 6:1-6; Ex 22:1-17). We love to use Proverbs 6:31 to command the devil to restore what he stole, but the meaning is that thieves were supposed to make restitution. The principle is that when I cause loss to another, I must take responsibility for my action, ask forgiveness, and make some attempt to restore what was taken, with interest. Remember when Jesus came to Zacchaeus’s house? (Lk 19:8-9) When that old tax collector said he was making 4-fold restitution for his crimes, Jesus immediately responded with, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Restoration and reconciliation are marks of genuine remorse, leaving us with more than a clear conscience, but with a clean slate.
Somebody Said: Our culture is all about shallow relationships. But that doesn’t mean we should stop looking each other in the eye and having deep conversations. Francis Chan
Scripture Reading: Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:8-10 NLT)
Restoration and reconciliation is the heartbeat of God. For those of us who are striving to overcome our shortcomings and live free in the grace of Christ, repentance must go beyond receiving God’s forgiveness. We must take steps to make amends to those we have harmed. This can be a tricky business. In some situations, I may have done things that the other is unaware of. To avoid doing more damage than good, the advice of a wise and trusted counselor is needed. In other situations, the wounded party may be already gone. The creative guidance of the Spirit is necessary. My amend may be a lifestyle, not an event. Whatever the case, don’t do it alone, but be sure to do it.
Pastor Virgil Stokes
Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson