A Voice in the
July 1, 1997
While the July article "Repentance and Forgiveness" was written several months ago, the Lord allowed the recent timing of an object lesson; an incident that occurred, which I'd like to share with you for our learning.
This object lesson begins about eight years ago...
This man and his wife came to the store wanting to do a "trade." He wanted lettering for his race car; in exchange for advertising space on the car to advertise our business. Having just bought the business, which was still new and growing, this seemed like a wonderful way to advertise. And, on top of that, this couple seemed like a wonderful "Christian" family; engaged in singing, Gospel Jamborees and whatnot.
To make a long story short; after the lettering was done the car was sold for parts, never raced, and the couple always managed to stay one step ahead of attempts to summons them to court, with blind addresses and disconnected/unlisted phone numbers. About a year ago I received a Notice of Bankruptcy, as being one of many creditors to whom this notice was distributed.
Now, the story gets interesting! Recently I discovered that he has a mail box at the pack-n-ship business next door to mine. I saw him, and invited him over for a conversation. I was hoping to discover what kind of mentality would cause a person claiming to be a Christian, to conduct business in the manner he had done.
He did not stay long. But long enough to lie, claiming that I had "forgiven him" several years ago, and so, thus, he no longer was in debt to me. And if that wasn't enough, at that very moment he was "asking forgiveness" as he was on the way out the door, not waiting to hear my response, and if I didn't forgive him, then his debt was "my responsibility BEFORE GOD." That, as Christians we are supposed to "forgive" ...and since he had just "now" asked forgiveness, that absolved him of his obligations to me. And if there was still a problem, it was now on "my hands" if I didn't "forgive" him. (and out the door he went)
(Before I go any further here, please do not misunderstand. I'm not garnering sympathy. 'am only sharing this for the "object lesson" value. An example of an actual "live" incident, to which I am no longer connected, because I've written the matter off some time ago. But the incident is "interesting" for illustration sake...and the fact that the participant claims to be a "Christian.")
In this case, had he actually come repenting, asking forgiveness, I would give it. For lying, cheating, stealing. Even, if he were to come, openly, honestly, explaining that he was having problems..."how can we work this out?"...I can work with a person; first of all forgiving the betrayal of trust, and then "working with" the person regarding the debt. And furthermore, in advertising on a race car there is a certain amount of "risk" involved, which we figured on when we entered into the agreement. The car could be on the track for one lap and crash...and that's the end of the advertisement. Life is a risk.
If this person were truly asking for forgiveness, especially as a Christian, he would first of all repent for not holding up his end of the deal and/or for his subsequent actions. And then, seek to make restitution. (Ex22,Lev6)
As people came confessing their sins, John the Baptist retorted to the hypocrites of his day, "..bear fruits worthy of repentance."(Mt3:8)
In other words, we make things right from the heart, and then exemplify the heart attitude with actions. Otherwise... "Faith without works is dead.."(Jas2:26)
When Zacchaeus came down out of the tree he enumerated to Jesus how he was going to make things right with everyone he had swindled. And Jesus responded, "Today salvation has come to this house."(Lk19:9) Zacchaeus was listing off the outward things, but God looks at the heart (1Sam16:7) and Jesus saw the heart that was eliciting the promises.
In this case, we considered restitution for physical wrongs.
However, for sin, there is no amount of restitution that is possible. The debt could only be paid with Jesus' blood.(Rev5:9) God knows the heart. He knows true penitence. And gives forgiveness. That is infinite Grace.