If you are like me, you have experienced the pain of broken relationships. In fact, I am quite confident that it is an experience held in common by every human being.
Broken and damaged relationships can burden the heart, dampen the spirit, and suck the joy out of life. In my 30 years of ministry, my heart has often ached as I have watched men and women allow bitterness and resentment to take root in their lives.
I have also been amazed at how many Christians will do almost anything to avoid reconciliation…to keep from cleaning up the past. They comfort themselves with the rightness of their cause. And they remind themselves often of their presumed innocence in the matter.
My friend, I want to challenge you with a thought today. And it is a very important thought that is vital to your spiritual vitality. That thought is this:
The inward work of God’s grace in our lives…the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation that we receive from the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ…must be expressed in our outward willingness to make restitution to the ones we have wronged.
Let me put that another way. The inward work of Christ in salvation and forgiveness must be manifested in our willingness not to just say “sorry” and move on as if nothing had happened, but to right the wrong we have done.
Jacob is a wonderful example of this. Nearly 20 years after stealing his brother Esau’s birthright, Jacob’s heart was touched by God. He knew he had to make restitution…and he had to do so at his own personal risk.
We read in Genesis 33 that Esau went to Jacob (at Jacob’s invitation) with 400 men. When Jacob learned that Esau had brought 400 men with him, he was frightened out of his mind, not quite sure what Esau would do!
But even through his fear, Jacob persisted in seeking reconciliation with his brother. He was willing to risk it all to make things right with Esau.
In verse 3 we find Jacob going out to meet his brother, bowing down seven times and calling Esau, “My Lord Esau.” In that culture, this was a sign of tremendous respect and humility.
Jacob had also sent ahead droves of animals as an extraordinary gift of reconciliation. Through the gifts, Jacob was saying to Esau, “This is my way of making restitution for what took place 20 years ago.”
You see, God had changed Jacob’s heart and with that change came humility and a determination to right the wrong of 20 years earlier.
Beloved, when God touches your heart, when God forgives your sins, when God blesses you with salvation, when God ministers to you by His grace, when God exercises mercy toward you, you must respond to these gifts and be willing to right the wrong…even if it has been a long time.
But the story with Jacob and Esau doesn’t end there. As we read later on, we see that God not only changed Jacob’s heart, but as Jacob seeks restitution with his brother, Esau’s heart is changed as well (see verses 12-15).
We must remember that when we purpose in our hearts to seek the forgiveness of those whom we have wronged, God is working on the heart of the other person as well.
Now, bearing the fruit of repentance is not a walk in the park. Correcting past wrongs can put dread in your heart. It can give you a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. I can tell you, I’ve been there!
But facing past sins will bring you the greatest blessing you could ever dream of as a Christian.
On your own, this process is difficult. On your own, I even dare say it is impossible. But when you do it in Jesus’ power, when you do it in Jesus’ name, when you do it for Jesus’ sake, you will have all the strength you need. In fact, God will even go ahead of you and He will prepare the other person’s heart to soften them in advance of your words.
My friend, I want you to take a moment and examine your life today. Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile? Is there someone you have harbored bitterness and anger towards…even if it has been 20 years?
If so, I pray you will allow God to touch your heart today and that you will humble yourself before Him. Then be resolute in righting the wrong. You will experience blessings like never before!
Dr. Michael Youssef is the founding pastor of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. He has a degree in theology from Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, as well as a master's degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also has a doctorate in social anthropology from Emory University. Leading the Way is Dr. Youssef's radio and television ministry, which broadcasts throughout North America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Learn more at www.leadingtheway.org.