Making Restitution


                “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               


                No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; everyone lives within a social structure; a community made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationships with others are a reflection of our relationship with God; when we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Lord; if we have cheated anyone, we have also cheated our God.  If we lie, slander, and hate another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century many Jewish families journeyed long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins and to be restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus has taught us that we are to first be reconciled to our neighbor; only then, are we permitted to approach God in order to honor Him with our sacrifices (and receive atonement for our sins.)  This commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential part of true Christianity today.

                When I came to California over 7 years ago, I began to work a 12 step program; a program whose original founding members were almost entirely Christian; therefore the formation of the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found within the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.  After becoming a Christian myself, I came to realize that Christ’s command to make amends likely influenced the formation of the 8th and the 9th steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all;” the ninth step reads, Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I have continued to make amends to those I have harmed.  I have made restitution; I have paid off nearly every delinquent debt, and I have asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every debt paid and every apology given, I have felt my spirit drawing ever nearer to my teacher, my Lord, my God, and my friend.

                Today, if you desire to grow closer to God, you might consider examining the mistakes of your past; if you have stolen from anyone, you are obligated to approach that person and make restitution.  If you have lied, and your lies have caused hardship, you must return and speak the truth.  If your mistreatment of others has created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian; frequently, the pathway toward a more intimate fellowship with God in the future, leads through the sins of our past.  We have all sinned, but what we do with those sins will determine whether we go deeper with the Lord, or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have sinned against; inspire us to approach them and to make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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