Spirit & Truth # 255
“New Year’s Restitutions”
By Greg Smith
(c) 2012. All rights reserved.
|16th c. woodcutting by Albrecht Duerer|
"The Penitent David"(By the way, no, I do not encourage self-flagellation.)
Happy New Year! By now, you’ve probably made and broken quite a few New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions don’t generally work well for me. Maybe not for you, either. So in 2012, I want to issue you a challenge. Instead of trying to do things right, let’s work on trying to make things right. Instead of resolutions, let’s talk about making restitutions.
You might be saying, “What’s he talking about? I’m not a criminal. I don’t need to pay anything back to anyone.” I’ll bet if you examine your life enough, you can find quite a few things you need to make right. Are there apologies you need to make, forgiveness to ask for, reparations you must pay? Has your poor behavior damaged your Christian witness, and you need to set things right?
Once, upon hearing a sermon on restitution by F.E. Marsh, a young man named George came from the congregation, greatly troubled. He told Marsh that for years he had been stealing costly copper nails from his employer, but that the sermon had pricked his conscience. George knew that he must return to his employer, confess his sin, and repay the man for everything he had taken. He was ashamed to do so, however, because he had often invited his employer to church. The employer had, in return, scoffed at George’s religion. “Now,” said the penitent man, “I have been guilty of something that, if I should acknowledge it to him, will ruin my testimony forever."
After many weeks agonizing over his decision, George finally confessed his sin and repaid all. When the preacher inquired how the employer reacted, George replied, "He looked queerly at me, then exclaimed, 'George, I always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there's something in this Christianity after all. Any religion that would make a dishonest workman come back and confess that he had been stealing copper nails and offer to settle for them, must be worth having.'"[i]
In Psalm 32:3-5 (NIV), David writes about his own sin: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” David learned that not only did he have to confess his sins to God—he also had to do whatever he could to repay, restore, and make restitution for the damages he’d done. Then, and only then, he could be at peace with himself.
In 2012, instead of making resolutions, why not make restitutions? You’ve already taken stock of those behaviors that you need to modify. You’ve resolved to do things right this year—whether you actually will or not. But instead of just doing things right, let’s make things right. Who do you need to make things right with this year—before another day goes by?