Righting Past Wrongs

Ever look at the history of Germany after World War I? With the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was saddled with the bulk of the war reparations. The burden was so great that it crippled that nation. Runaway inflation, a disaster of an economy, a lack of national pride all were directly or indirectly caused by the payments Germany had to make as well as Germany being assigned the sole blame for World War I. Those weaknesses led to the possibility of the rise of the Nazi party and one Adolf Hitler. Now anyone who has studied that era of history realizes that Germany wasn’t solely to blame. As a matter of fact, it didn’t even start the conflict. Germany was pulled into a regional conflict because of treaties, and the opposing nations likewise. Germany was a major player, to be sure. But as far as Germany being the sole source of the war? That’s a matter of fiction, unlike World War II, where Germany was certainly the cause of that later war. The fact of the matter is that when it came to World War I, several nations played a hand in having that regional conflict escalate like it did. But only Germany got the blame.

You know, we can be like this in our personal relationships. It’s really easy to think about how others have wronged us but not cast the same critical eye over ourselves. However, being followers of Christ we should do just that. We should examine ourselves and seek to right the wrongs we’ve committed in our lives. For instance, look at how Zacchaeus responded when confronted by the Savior:

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” – Luke 19:7-8, NIV

Zacchaeus was going to make things right, then and there. Nothing was going to keep him from Jesus. We shouldn’t be surprised by this response. After all, it is in line with some guidance Jesus gave us:

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. – Matthew 5:23-24, NASB

Christ calls us to self-examination. He calls us to look at our pasts. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not looking to beat us up with the past. He’s not expecting us to try and do something to overcome our sin. We can’t. Only by His grace are we saved. But when we have hurt someone or done something wrong to another, He is looking for us to make amends. He is looking for us to correct the problem. And notice that He doesn’t say anything about the other person. We’re supposed to take the initiative and fix things. Waiting around until the other person decides to patch things up isn’t part of the program. At least, not Christ’s program. Remember, He was the one who took action by going to the Cross to restore our relationship with the Father. It wasn’t the Father who caused the split. We did. Yet God took the initiative and fixed it.

I wonder if we would have avoided World War II had that peace treaty been done differently. What if Germany didn’t bear the brunt of everything? Would there have been a Nazi party? Would we have had to deal with Adolf Hitler? Those answers we can’t know. But just as we saw Germany become toxic in the years after World War I, if we don’t seek to right the wrongs in our relationships, those relationships can grow increasingly toxic as well. Some probably already are. This is not how God would have us be. He would rather us reach out and heal these relationships, build upon them, and seek to improve situations with the folks around us. He knows it would be hard for us. But it’s also right. And we serve and love a righteous God. So let’s start that self-examination process. And let’s reach out to restore the relationships that have soured. It may cost us, but it cost Him something already. Let’s follow His lead and begin the reconciliation that is so desperately needed.

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