How to Restore Relationships
Sue loved her new sweater. She couldn’t wait to show it to her friend Leslie. The two decided to meet for dinner and a movie. Leslie loved the sweater too. She immediately said, “That sweater would be perfect for my office party. Can I borrow it?” Sue hesitated, but decided a friend was more valuable than an article of clothing, so she agreed. When she got the sweater back, there was a hole under the arm. Leslie apologized profusely, saying, “It must have unraveled. I’m so sorry.” Sue nodded and said, “Oh, it’s okay.” But things were never the same between the two of them. Sue felt that Leslie had taken advantage of her. Leslie thought Sue had overreacted over a simple article of clothing. Over time, the friendship unraveled like the sweater. What would have happened if Leslie had offered to repair or replace the sweater . . . and maybe added a scarf to apologize?
When God gave Moses the Law, he instituted a system of restitution: Anyone who injured another paid the price for what was stolen or destroyed and added 20 percent to the value. We may think of restitution as justice for the wronged party and punishment for the offender. But restitution offers more: It builds a bridge between the two parties, paving the way for relationships to be restored. By confessing the sin and compensating for any loss, the offender no longer has to deal with guilt. Receiving restitution and more frees the injured party from feeling unfairly treated.
Forgiveness from God coupled with responsibility toward the other person are key to restoring relationships. In Jesus’ eyes, those broken relationships are always our responsibility. If someone has something against us, he calls us to go and make it right (see Matthew 5:23–24). If we have something against another, we’re responsible to take the initiative to settle our differences with them (see Matthew 18:15). It’s not always comfortable. But it’s always the right thing to do.
Do you feel taken advantage of? Maybe it’s time to engage someone in conversation rather than detach from your relationship with them. Or maybe you’ve unintentionally mistreated a friend . . . you owe them money or lunch or a favor. Consider what needs to be done and take action: Repay the debt, replace the item and apologize for a wrong. Do whatever it takes to restore the relationship. Do it because it pleases God and because your relationships will be richer for it.
- Why is restitution necessary?
- Think about a relationship that is unraveling. How can you make restitution?
- What are some ways you can reconcile with God after you have sinned? What restitution can you offer?
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.’ “
Leviticus 6:1–7; Luke 19:8–10
Israel Seeing Jericho’s Walls Fall Down, by Faith
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Heb_11:30)
The children of Israel are now poised on the edge of the land that God had promised to give them. By faith, they had kept the Passover and were spared the judgment of the firstborn that befell the unbelieving Egyptians. By faith, they had been delivered from bondage in Egypt. By faith, they had passed through the Red Sea. Now, they would begin to possess the promised blessings of God, seeing Jericho’s walls fall down, by faith.
The first great challenge that Israel faced in the land was the fortress city of Jericho. Previously, the doubting spies had discouraged the people by speaking of these impenetrable cities. “The cities are great and fortified up to heaven” (Deu_1:28). Now, the Lord gives words of encouragement. “And the LORD said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand’ ” (Jos_6:2). Although these words must have stirred hope, the battle plan may have brought some perplexity. “You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days . . . But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets” (Jos_6:3-4). The natural question would have been, “How can a fortified city be taken by marching in circles and blowing trumpets?” Yet, these unusual battle instructions were accompanied by a divine promise. “When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Jos_6:5). If the people would trust in the Lord, march around the city as told, and add a victory shout at the end of the seventh day, then the walls would fall down. “And he said to the people, ‘Proceed, and march around the city’ ” (Jos_6:7).
Day after day, they marched on silently. On the seventh day, they marched repeatedly. Many times they may have been tempted to forsake the process as foolish and futile. Yet, patiently and obediently, they pressed on, by faith. Finally, the seventh march was completed on the seventh day. “When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout . . . the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city . . . and they took the city” (Jos_6:20). How could this be? It was the result of faith in God. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.”
Lord God of the impossible, many times I have been as helpless as Israel was before the impregnable fortress of Jericho. When I tried to knock down the circumstances by my own power or thought, I was defeated. When I trusted in You prayerfully, I was victorious. Please help me to patiently and persistently face such battles in prayer, awaiting Your work, by Your mighty grace, Amen.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT—LOVE!
“But now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these three, and the greatest of these is Love.” — 1Co_13:13.
LET US lay the emphasis on the word fruit, as contrasted with the works of the law. In work there is effort, strain, the sweat of the brow, and straining of the muscles; but fruit comes easily and naturally by the overflow of the sap rising from the root to bough and bud. So our Christian life should be the exuberance of the heart in which Christ dwells. The Apostle Paul prayed that Christ might dwell in the heart of his converts, that they might be rooted and grounded in love. It is only when the Holy Spirit fills us to the overflow that we shall abound in love to all men.
We must distinguish between love and the emotion of love. The former is always possible, though not always and immediately the latter. Our Lord repeating the ancient words of the Pentateuch, taught us that we may love God with our mind and strength, as well as with our hearts. We all know that the mind and strength are governed not by our emotions, but by our wills. We can love, therefore, by determining to put our thought and energies at the service of another for the sake of God; and we shall find our emotions kindle into a sacred glow of conscious affection.
In the chapter from which our text is taken, St. Paul distinguishes between the Gifts of the Church and Love. After passing them in review he comes to the conclusion that all of them, without Love as their heart and inspiration, are worth nothing.
The greatest word in the world is the unfathomable phrase, “God is Love.” You can no more define the essence of love than you can define the essence of God, but you can describe its effects and fruits. I give Dr. Weymouth’s translation: “Love is patient and kind, knows neither envy nor jealousy; is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and conceited. She does not behave unbecomingly, nor seek to aggrandize herself, nor blaze out in passionate anger, nor brood over wrongs. She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth. She knows how to be silent; she is full of trust, full of hope, full of patient endurance.”
We ought to take each of these clauses, and ponder whether our lives are realizing these high ideals. God send us a baptism of such love!
O Lord, my love is like some feebly glimmering spark; I would that it were as a hot flame. Kindle it by the breath of Thy Holy Spirit, till Thy love constraineth me. AMEN.
Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labor, and fellow soldier…for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life (Greek gambling with his life) — Php_2:25-30
Who Was Epaphroditus?
All we know of Epaphroditus is told us in this letter. He is one of those brave souls who leap into the light in connection with the imprisonment of Paul. It has been thought that he might be identified with the Epaphras of the Colossian epistle. But even if the names be one, such identification is improbable. It is scarcely thinkable that the pastor of Colossae should be so associated with a church in Europe as to be made its delegate to Paul. It is as a delegate we hear of him. For that perilous office he had volunteered. He had undertaken to convey to Paul the offerings of the Philippian Church. And of the risks involved in such a journey and in visiting a suspect and a prisoner, we have sundry hints in the apostle’s words. No compulsion had driven Epaphroditus. He had taken all the hazards cheerfully. The strain of it all had told on him so terribly that he was brought down to the gates of death. And the point to note is how the great apostle “grappled him to his soul with hoops of steel,” and spoke of him in terms of loftiest eulogy.
Risks Immortalized Epaphroditus and Paul
It is a very interesting word which Paul uses when he says that Epaphroditus “did not regard” his life. It is a word from the language of the gambler. In the long hours of his imprisonment, Paul had narrowly watched his Roman guards. He had heard them talking about boxing matches; he had been a spectator when they played at dice. And as he saw them gambling with their money and taking risks in a reckless way, his thoughts went winging to Epaphroditus. That was the kind of thing which he had done. He had deliberately gambled with his life. For Christ’s sake and for the Church’s sake he had flung caution to the winds of heaven. And that loving and self-forgetting recklessness so stirred the gallant heart of the apostle that Epaphroditus is immortalized. Had he played for safety he would have stayed at home. He would have pled the urgencies of work at Philippi. Probably his health was none too good, and he had doctor’s orders against going. But Epaphroditus took the risks—lived dangerously—gambled with his life—and so lives within the Word of God forever.
One understands how the great heart of Paul clave so closely to Epaphroditus. The spirit of that inconspicuous delegate was the spirit which burned in his own breast. Like all great missionaries, Paul did not dwell on dangers. He only spoke of them when he was forced to. In his tremendous eagerness to spread the Gospel, he almost forgot the risks that he was running. But if ever a man gambled with his life, lived dangerously, and took the hazard, it was the great apostle to the Gentiles. He, too, might have played for safety. He might have advanced a score of reasons for it. That lacerating and gnawing thorn, for instance, would not that justify the nicest caution? But Paul forgot his caution and took risks that well might have appalled the strongest heart in the ardor of his love for the Lord Jesus. The love of Christ constrained him. He lived dangerously for the Lord. The motto of Paul was never “Safety first”; from the beginning to the end it was “Christ first.” That was why he found a kindred spirit in this obscure delegate from Philippi who would have nothing to do with self-regarding caution, but for love’s sake gambled with his life.
The Holy Spirit Gives Courage
This lofty disregard of self is inherent in all Christian service. A certain joy in living dangerously is one of the first-fruits of the Spirit. In the upper chamber, before Pentecost, the disciples were very careful of their lives. The doors were shut for fear of the Jews. They trembled at every step upon the stair. But when the Holy Spirit came on them in power, there was a kind of reckless gaiety about them which made men think that they were filled with wine. The doors were no longer barred now. They did not jump at every mounting footstep. That mighty rushing wind which swept the chamber somehow had swept their caution right away. They were ready to take any risks now, in the spiritual baptism of Pentecost, and like this delegate, they gambled with their lives. Later on we read of two of them that “men took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” And what was it that carried this conviction? It was the defiant boldness of the two. Heedless of safety, imperiling their liberty, they proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord—and men took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. The strange thing is that one of the two was Peter—and immediately we remember the denial. Peter had played for safety then. To save his skin he had almost lost his soul. Now, in the power of Pentecost, that same Peter was sublimely reckless. He was living dangerously for his Lord. All great servants have had that spiritual mark. St. Francis had it when he had kissed the leper. Luther had it when he would go to Worms though devils were thick as the tiles upon the house-tops. And nobody, however quiet his sphere, is ever thoroughly equipped for service unless, like Epaphroditus and the rest of them, he is prepared to gamble with his life. I have heard of ministers who were afraid to visit where there was fever or diphtheria or smallpox. I have even known of them being dissuaded from it by loving members of their congregations. Doubtless Epaphroditus was besought so by those who prized his ministry at Philippi; but he that saveth his life shall lose it.
Leaps into the Dark Inevitable in the Life of Action
This holds also of the life of intellect as certainly as of the life of action. To live by faith is always to live dangerously. My old professor, Lord Kelvin, once said in class a very striking thing. He said that there came a point in all his great discoveries when he had to take a leap in the dark. And nobody who is afraid of such a leap from the solid ground of what is demonstrated will know the exhilaration of believing. To commit ourselves unreservedly to Christ is just the biggest venture in the world. And the wonderful thing is that when, with a certain daring, we take Lord Kelvin’s leap into the dark, we discover it is not dark at ail, but life abundant, and liberty, and peace.
Tested by Trials, Trusted by God
“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed…” (2Ti_2:15, Amplified Bible)
There comes a time in every situation where light-weight pretenders just can’t get the job done. They may talk a good game, but in the trenches when the pressure hits — they fold like a house of cards.
I think of Abraham being tested to the point of raising the blade to slay his son, Isaac. God stopped him, and place great trust in him from that time forward. I think of Joseph being sorely tested in Egypt as he went through multiple injustices, without turning bitter in his heart against the Lord. And we see how God raised him up to be a prince in Egypt who brought salvation to the people of God.
I think of Daniel and the Hebrew children facing great trial of soul in Babylonian captivity, who nevertheless kept their faith in the darkest hour and were elevated by God to positions of extraordinary influence.
Tested by trials, trusted by God.
This is the way of the Kingdom. God looks for those who have been proven by going through significant trials; men and women who are not out to make a fast buck, or jump on the fast track to fame and glory. Men and women of substance, found in the depths of solitude and separation.
Earlier Paul told Timothy, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given me the strength for my work because he knew that he could trust me.” (1Ti_1:12). Can the Lord trust you?
And listen to Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches — the Thessalonians: “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.” (1Th_2:3-5, The Message).
May God exalt in these days those whom HE trusts, because they have been tested by trial — and passed. If God trusts them — then so can we.
Pass your tests my friend; we are all counting on what God will do with you next!
“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.” — Isa_44:3
When a believer has fallen into a low, sad state of feeling, he often tries to lift himself out of it by chastening himself with dark and doleful fears. Such is not the way to rise from the dust, but to continue in it. As well chain the eagle’s wing to make it mount, as doubt in order to increase our grace. It is not the law, but the gospel which saves the seeking soul at first; and it is not a legal bondage, but gospel liberty which can restore the fainting believer afterwards. Slavish fear brings not back the backslider to God, but the sweet wooings of love allure him to Jesus’ bosom. Are you this morning thirsting for the living God, and unhappy because you cannot find him to the delight of your heart? Have you lost the joy of religion, and is this your prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”? Are you conscious also that you are barren, like the dry ground; that you are not bringing forth the fruit unto God which he has a right to expect of you; that you are not so useful in the Church, or in the world, as your heart desires to be? Then here is exactly the promise which you need, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.” You shall receive the grace you so much require, and you shall have it to the utmost reach of your needs. Water refreshes the thirsty: you shall be refreshed; your desires shall be gratified. Water quickens sleeping vegetable life: your life shall be quickened by fresh grace. Water swells the buds and makes the fruits ripen; you shall have fructifying grace: you shall be made fruitful in the ways of God. Whatever good quality there is in divine grace, you shall enjoy it to the full. All the riches of divine grace you shall receive in plenty; you shall be as it were drenched with it: and as sometimes the meadows become flooded by the bursting rivers, and the fields are turned into pools, so shall you be-the thirsty land shall be springs of water.
“Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” — Heb_9:20
There is a strange power about the very name of blood, and the sight of it is always affecting. A kind heart cannot bear to see a sparrow bleed, and unless familiarized by use, turns away with horror at the slaughter of a beast. As to the blood of men, it is a consecrated thing: it is murder to shed it in wrath, it is a dreadful crime to squander it in war. Is this solemnity occasioned by the fact that the blood is the life, and the pouring of it forth the token of death? We think so. When we rise to contemplate the blood of the Son of God, our awe is yet more increased, and we shudder as we think of the guilt of sin, and the terrible penalty which the Sin-bearer endured. Blood, always precious, is priceless when it streams from Immanuel’s side. The blood of Jesus seals the covenant of grace, and makes it for ever sure. Covenants of old were made by sacrifice, and the everlasting covenant was ratified in the same manner. Oh, the delight of being saved upon the sure foundation of divine engagements which cannot be dishonoured! Salvation by the works of the law is a frail and broken vessel whose shipwreck is sure; but the covenant vessel fears no storms, for the blood ensures the whole. The blood of Jesus made his testament valid. Wills are of no power unless the testators die. In this light the soldier’s spear is a blessed aid to faith, since it proved our Lord to be really dead. Doubts upon that matter there can be none, and we may boldly appropriate the legacies which he has left for his people. Happy they who see their title to heavenly blessings assured to them by a dying Saviour. But has this blood no voice to us? Does it not bid us sanctify ourselves unto him by whom we have been redeemed? Does it not call us to newness of life, and incite us to entire consecration to the Lord? O that the power of the blood might be known, and felt in us this night!