(PART 7) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
(PART 7) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
Another roadblock that we will look at can trouble believers until they go home to be with the Lord. What is it you ask? Let’s move forward to the next chapter.
How Do I Rectify Those Past Decisions Where I Have Hurt Others?
Before we were saved we were ruled by our sin nature with its affections [innate forces resident in the evil nature; propensities (a natural inclination or tendency)]40 and lusts (forces reaching out to find expression in the gratification of these desires; to the goings forth of the soul towards objects which it is wrong to pursue).41 Along the journey of our lives our associations have impacted us, some in a good way and others in a bad way. Our upbringing might have been with strict boundaries, boundaries with borders, or no borders at all.
All of us have hurt others in one way, shape, or form. Sometimes people make false accusations against another for personal recognition or financial gain. Others have made claims about get-rich schemes and defrauded trusting people out of their lifelong savings. Infidelity has broken up many families. In some cases, primary breadwinners have not been willing to provide financial support for their former spouse and children. Some have committed horrendous sexual acts upon others. And there are those who have taken other people’s lives away from them for reasons that didn’t warrant such action.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we are not susceptible to engage in any of these actions. However, as we grow in the Lord by putting on the mind of Christ, our new actions should be reflective of these new thoughts. As a result, self-centeredness will be replaced by God-centeredness. The sin nature will be under subjection to the power of the Holy Spirit. The affections and lusts of the flesh will be replaced by the spiritual qualities (fruit) of the Holy Spirit.
As we begin to appear as new persons with new habits, what is our responsibility for addressing those past decisions where we have hurt others, whether during those times we were unbelievers, or even as believers?
Let’s take a look at a person who not only went out of his way to see Jesus, but Jesus went out of His way to see him.
I restore him fourfold
Suggested Reading: Luke 19:1-10
As Jesus was passing through Jericho being compassed about by crowds of people, a man named Zacchaeus, who was the head of the tax collections in the region, sought to see him. Being short in height, he climbed up a Sycamore tree so that he could get a better view. When Jesus came to where he was, he looked up at Zacchaeus and told him to come down so that He could accompany him to his house where He would lodge overnight.
It’s interesting to note that when the crowd realized Jesus was heading to the house of Zaccheaus, they complained that He was going to stay at the house of a man who was considered by them to be disgraceful and scandalous. Why did they think of Zacchaeus in such a manner?
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
In a small town or village, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Zacchaeus’ pronouncement that he would give half of his fair gains (profits) to the poor along with giving back four-fold restitution to those whom he had falsely accused (cheated; overcharged; forced to pay greater taxes) clearly indicated why he was thought of in such a disrespectful manner by those in Jericho. The context conveys the idea that these practices had been going on for a long time and involved a lot of people. This pronouncement by Zacchaeus was made in front of other witnesses to the Lord which seemed to imply that a change of heart had occurred in his life.
Can you imagine the shock of the townspeople when they heard from someone they had despised announce that anyone who was hurt by him would not only receive back what they were overcharged but would receive four times as much? When people have an encounter with God, they are given a new nature. Over time, as they grow, their outlook about themselves and others begins to change. Wrong is no longer right. Right is no longer wrong, but right is right.
Do you believe that the example of Zacchaeus is an application for the New Testament saint?
In like manner, should we address those past decisions where we have hurt others and as such seek to make restitution?
Back in the early eighties after I had just finished Bible college, I was asked to work in a Christian day school for an affiliated branch ministry. When my wife and I arrived, along with our two children, we were shown the apartment which was to be ours. After settling in, we were introduced to the various families occupying different parts of the facility. This unique residence used to be a motel with three separate buildings. These buildings were now used for various purposes: a chapel, a Christian day school, offices, a cafeteria, and housing.
One of the families that I was introduced to took me by surprise. In my younger years, when I was an unbeliever, my dad used to own a Spa & Grille in my hometown. Periodically, during my high school days, I would work for him. Sometimes, it would be for a couple of hours after school, and at other times I would relieve him for a considerable amount of time over the weekend.
There was a young couple who would come in and order this or that. The boyfriend loved to work on cars. His girlfriend was very friendly. My dad owned the business for about five years. All throughout this time, they would come in together. When my dad sold his business, we lost touch.
When it came to my attention they were moving back in with their in-laws, I made it my purpose to visit this now-married couple. What I had found out in my brief conversation with them was that the husband had been accused of rape years earlier, when he was an unbeliever. He was acquitted of the charge. Years later, after having become a Christian, he realized that he had to make restitution for not telling the truth about this incident.
Apparently, he got hold of the proper authorities and confessed to them that he did, in fact, commit this crime. Understanding that he would be sent to prison to serve out whatever time he was going to receive, they decided that it would be best to live with family until the day of reckoning. After they had left, this was the last time we were in contact.
With this in mind, did you ever wonder how the idea of restitution was handled in the Old Testament during the time when the Jews were under the tenets of the Mosaic Law?
Please go to Numbers 15
Restitution under the law
Suggested Reading: Numbers 15:1-41
And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the Lord, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. (Numbers 15:22, 24)
Moses is being instructed by God. He is told to convey this information to the children of Israel so that when they, along with Caleb and Joshua, entered the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, they were to offer various kinds of offerings (e.g. meat, drink, burnt, free-will, and slain) unto Him if they chose not to obey His commands. Under the institution of the Mosaic Law there was given to Moses, not only the Ten Commandments but more than 100 additional ones. If disobedience to God’s commands occurred out of ignorance (not to realize one’s failure), then the congregation would bring forth the appropriate offering and atonement would be made by the priest, which would result in the offense being forgiven (no penalty incurred).
30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
If disobedience to God’s commands occurred because of what was done willfully (intentionally; to disobey God's law deliberately and arrogantly, knowing full well the danger involved),42 then the congregation would not bring an offering to the priest, and thus no atonement would be made. In this instance, the punishment for the offense committed would be exacted.
The premise was that no one would get away with anything. If a Jew sinned unintentionally, then the entire congregation would come together and atone for their sin. If they sinned purposely, then they would receive the punishment for their sin, which in some cases carried with it the penalty of death. Restitution was made in both cases.
Are there any verses in the book of Acts, the Epistles, or the book of Revelation that talk about a Christian making restitution concerning addressing a wrong where they have hurt others?
There appears to be one section of verses that many commentators claim has to do with restitution.
Let’s go to James 4
To him that knoweth to do good
Suggested Reading: James 4:13-17
Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (James 4:13)
The practice to which the apostle James here alludes is very common in the East to this day, among a very respectable and intelligent class of merchants. They convey the products of one place to some distant city, where they remain until they have disposed of their own goods and have purchased others suitable for another distant market; and thus the operation is repeated, until, after a number of years, the trader is enabled to return prosperously to his home43. I’m sure that for many of those who had become Christians this was most likely their type of livelihood.
14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
James reminded them that if they were to live their life in this manner, then they wouldn’t know what would befall them on the following day. In other words life is uncertain; it is like a vapor that is seen ascending from a
stream,44 but which disappears by the rising sun.
15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
Instead of them saying that they will go into such a city, they ought rather to recognize their absolute dependence on God, and feel that life and success are subject to his will.45 Likewise, when we are in the midst of our endeavors, we should make sure that we are getting to know the Lord. In other words, don’t continue on in your life the way you used to. Seek God’s will. Go to where there are teachings that convey His truths. Go to where His presence is evident. Go to where you are learning about who you have been made to be anew in Christ.
16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
James recognized that some of them continued to glory in reliance on their own skill. Their perspective of their future was filled with confidence of success, and not a confidence in God. Therefore, James concluded that all such boasting was evil because it showed evidence of a spirit of forgetfulness of dependence on God.
17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
After providing them with this instruction, he now says that they no longer have any excuse addressing their occupational lifestyle. If we know what God’s perspective is on whatever is brought before us and we don’t obey it, then it is sin (the sin of omission; in failing to do what we know to be the right thing to do).46 It is true that the idea of restitution is not mentioned in these verses. However, what is being conveyed here is to do what we know is right according to God’s word.
Would providing restitution to those whom we have hurt be reflective of the spiritual qualities of the Holy Spirit? With this question in mind let’s contemplate on a quote from the Bible Knowledge Commentary. To attain spiritual maturity, a believer must do the good he now knows. He must be what God wants him to be, do what God wants him to do, speak as God wants him to speak, and sense what God wants him to sense.47
I would like to leave you with a few more thoughts concerning addressing those past decisions where in some cases I have hurt others. After I had come up with the title for this chapter, I began to be made aware, by the Holy Spirit, of two people in particular. I needed to talk to them concerning issues in the past for which I had caused them hurt.
The first one had to do with a fellow believer who used to drive a taxi for me about four years ago. He was a very good driver, honest, hard-working, etc. During the last year of his employment, when the taxi season was winding down, he asked me if he could drive on Sunday morning for a couple of hours while I was attending church service. My comment was basically that he could as long as he got enough sleep from the night before. He usually worked late on Saturday nights, and I wasn’t comfortable with him only getting a couple of hours sleep and then getting back into the cab on the following day.
On this particular morning, as I was on the road, he called me to come pick him up. Then, I drove to the worship center and left the taxi in his hands. After service, a fellow believer gave me a ride home. About an hour later my taxi driver called and told me the bad news. After taking a couple to their house, he attempted to back the taxi out of the driveway so he could turn around. As he did, he hit a large, hidden rock which dented in the passenger side front door.
I asked him to bring the vehicle home so that I could take a look at it. After checking the damage, it was evident to me that the cost for repair would be around $1,500.00 to $2,000.00. I told him that I had a $1,000.00 deductible and hoped that he would consider paying half. His initial response was that he would provide restitution as he was able. I said something like, “Okay, we will figure this out.”
I proceeded to get back in the taxi and finish the day shift. Later on, he took over and completed the night shift. In the morning, when I got up to start the day shift, he asked me for a ride to the ferry. What stood out to me was that his bags were packed. At this point, it became pretty obvious that he had decided to quit.
As we were on our way to the ferry, he said that he had reconsidered paying part of the deductible. According to him, he was not only unaware of this deductible, but there was no prior agreement relating to his employment that if an accident occurred, he would have to pay half of the deductible. He was technically right, but I thought that being a Christian he would want to split the cost. He got out of the taxi in a hurry, boarded the ferry, and I haven’t seen him since.
When I began to write this particular chapter, his name came to my mind. I knew that it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to call him. I found his phone number out of an old phone book. When he answered, I responded by telling him who I was and that I wanted to apologize for being overbearing in regards to this incident. I didn’t expect an apology from him, and I didn’t get one. He said that he had put the incident aside. We talked for a little while, and then the conversation came to a close. I did what I believe I was directed to do.
One more thing, believe it, or not. Another name came to my mind besides his. This one was quite surprising because I hadn’t thought about this person in about forty years. The name came to me as clear as a bell. This person was someone I had dated in my younger years before I was saved. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, we were intimate. On a particular day, I received a phone call from one of her friends informing me that the girl was pregnant and wanted to see me about the possibility of getting married. However, I wasn’t ready to commit.
There was no doubt that my decision to not get married right away brought about animosity between us. Discussions ensued about the necessity for me to provide financial support when the baby would be delivered. Eventually, I received a phone call informing me that she had a miscarriage. After that news, there was no longer any need for us to keep in contact.
Now that I had her first and last name, I did an online search and found five people with the same first and last names. Being close to the same age as she was, along with being aware that she had a brother and a couple of sisters, I found two names that fit the bill. Before I called each of them, I tried to remember the name of the young woman who had arranged for our first date. The reason I wanted this name was so I could say on the phone that I was looking for the name of a woman who was a friend of so and so. If this person responded by saying that she knew so and so, then I knew I had made contact with the right person.
I prayed to God asking him to bring this other woman’s name to my remembrance. Nothing came to my mind, so I thought that the search was over. As I was engaged in some other activity, all of a sudden this person’s name came into my mind in the form of what I would call a still small voice. I called the phone number of each person, but no one answered. I left a message hoping to receive a response back. At the time of the closing of this chapter, I have received no response. Was there another approach that I could have used to contact this person? I don’t know. I will continue to pursue God’s leading, and we’ll see where it all winds up.
I believe that when we have become born again everything about us has changed. Becoming aware of these changes only occurs as we hear the pronouncement about them according to God’s word. Do you believe that we, as Christians, should make restitution toward those we have hurt in the past no matter whether they were unbelievers or believers at the time? Do you believe that we, as Christians, should make restitution toward those we have hurt in the past when we were unbelievers?
42The Bible Exposition.
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