Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord promised the people of Judah that if they would amend their ways and turn back to Him and seek to follow His will in how they treated others around them, He would bless and establish them in their land forever.
5 “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Jeremiah 7:5-7 NKJV
The Lord is making a similar promise to us today, although the “land” He offers us is a rewarding journey through life as we follow after Him, now and throughout eternity.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the importance of amending our ways. Before He died on the cross and rose from the dead as a sin offering for all believers, forgiveness for sins was obtained through a sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem. By approaching Him, God would certainly forgive us for what we had done, but what about the people we have hurt along the way with our bad behavior? Jesus reminds us to consider them, as well.
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV
Jesus is describing the concept of making amends with those we have hurt. It is a fundamental step in twelve-step recovery programs for addictions, destructive habits, or other types of spiritual damage.
Amends is the process of recognizing our own hurtful behaviors, confessing them to God and directly to those who have been most affected, and doing everything in our power to seek to restore the damage we have done. We are only looking at our own offensive actions here, not the actions others might have done to us.
We can never undo a wrong that we have done. It may have been an act of commission or omission, but it is something that we now recognize and wish we could go back and do over. The best we can do now is to do everything in our power to admit our fault, restore any broken relationships it caused, and to help bring about healing. The affected parties are under no obligation to receive our offer, and sometimes they may not, but we are obligated by God to try to make a sincere attempt at reconciliation in most situations.
If a party is dangerous or has a history of abuse, we will certainly want to avoid entering a situation that will cause more problems than it solves. But for many if not most situations, the Lord will guide us forward.
Reconciliation is the centerpiece of Jesus’ coming to earth to restore a right relationship with all women and men around the globe.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NKJV
So how do we go about this process of confronting our past head on and beginning a new life of reconciliation? With God, all things are possible when they are aligned with His will for us. It is all about starting with a small step and a large determination to do the right thing.
First, we pray for guidance and direction. We ask Him to show us the way. He promised us that His yoke is easy and burden light. We can do nothing like this without Him gently leading the way, providing the opening, and giving us the courage to speak up and admit to an offended party that we were wrong.
After we do make our first amends, the second one usually becomes easier. Perhaps we will have successfully restored a friendship, perhaps not. We have absolutely no control over how it was received, nor do we have any expectations along these lines. But we do know that as we seek to follow God’s will, no matter how imperfect of a job we do, He will be very pleased with us and with our heart that seeks to be fully restored with His. We have begun to amend our ways.
Lord, thank You for offering the ministry of reconciliation through Jesus Christ. I confess my wrongs to You and ask that You help me to move forward with a ministry of reconciliation wherever I have hurt others. May they see You alive and active in me as I seek to share love and forgiveness with them. Grant us peace as we seek to amend our ways. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.