I’ve hurt a lot of people in my life. I’m sure more than I even realize.
When you grow in Christ, one of the most important things you have to learn is to take an inventory of your past. You try to recall every time you wronged someone, every time you lied, cheated, stole, hurt (emotionally or physically), or gossiped about someone. And then, you ask forgiveness.
I know what a lot of you might be thinking, especially if you are familiar with Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous, you’re probably thinking, “He’s talking about making amends. That’s not from the Bible, that’s from the 12 steps of AA!”
Yes, the way I phrased it, that is basically Step 8.
But, trust me, the Bible is very clear that this is how things are supposed to go.
“Happy are the merciful.” (Matthew 5:6)
“Happy are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
Let’s examine that last one a little more.
Today, this verse applies mainly to two acts done in the church: Tithing and Communion.
God wants you to come to him with a clean slate, having no quarrels with anyone, because he wants you to be focused solely on him. Giving to God is a deeply personal and spiritual matter.
We don’t tithe because we have to. We tithe because we are choosing to honor God, to thank him for his blessings, and to show that we have faith that he will provide (this is especially tough during those “tithe or buy groceries” moments).
And when we take communion, we are joining with Christ in his final supper, where he symbolically gave his body and blood for us before actually doing so on the Cross.
But if I come to these things and my mind is too focused on the fight I’m having with my wife, or I’m feeling guilty for not inviting Jarin to my birthday party (sorry, buddy), then I am not focused on God. Instead, I’m on auto-pilot, going through the routine, not in communion with the Lover of My Soul.
Everyone needs a clean slate.
That’s why this personal inventory thing is such a major life-changing tool that far too few Christians use.
Yes, when you accepted Christ, your sins were forgiven, but that doesn’t erase the pain you left on those you hurt in your past. Turning over this new Christian leaf means starting over and becoming a better person. To fully do that, you must make amends.
And you might say, “There is no way on Earth that So-And-So is going to forgive me for what I did when we were in high school.”
That’s not the point. You don’t need them to forgive you to wipe that from your slate, you need only to do your part. The right thing for you to do is apologize. After that, the ball is in their court. Whether they forgive you then or not, you can check them off your list.
And it works the other way too, that we are called by God to forgive others (of everything) just as he forgave you (of everything).
So, going forward this week, I challenge you – As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.