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.