2002-12-11 - Twelve Steps for Christian Living
Step Nine- Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Matthew 5:23-24 (The Message) This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
In Step Eight, we made a list of all the people we have harmed and asked God to make us willing to make amends with them. Step Eight prepares us for Step Nine. I want to remind all of you, at this point, that these steps cannot be taken out of order. Each step builds upon the previous one. Just reading Step Nine terrifies me to the point of saying, "well, I am finished with these steps." Hang in here with me, and remember we are on a journey. It's a long trip, not a short jaunt to the corner store.
The above passage is the only one that I can find where God tell us to leave worship before giving our offering. Making amends with others must be very important to God. I believe the passage is implying that if we have problems with others, then we will have problems with our relationship with God. If I am full of guilt from my past, or bundled up in a cocoon of anger against someone, then I have walls between God and myself.
Step Nine must be taken with the utmost care, wisdom, prudence and prayerful guidance of timing and words. It is a must, at this point, to have a trusted friend, a seasoned Christian -- and even better -- a person that has been through Step Nine himself or herself. This accountability partner or sponsor will hopefully prevent you from making some critical mistakes, and will help you make these direct amends in the most appropriate way, which will injure neither the person you are seeking to make amends with nor others.
Don't expect the other person to accept your offer of making the amends. Some will accept your offer and embrace you with compassion and forgiveness; others will reject you and send you away. Be prepared to accept both forgiveness and rejection. Take them both with humility. Give them both to God.
If the person does forgive you, handle with care! Forgiveness, for some of us, is just as hard to accept as rejection.
You will also be very wise to avoid an "holier-than-thou" attitude toward others. All God asks us to do is to attempt to be reconciled with others. Then we must let go and turn the situation over to God.
The most obvious people on your list are family members. Go to them first, and ask their forgiveness for the wrongs you have committed against them. Tell them you are working on your life by turning your will over to God. The key is to go slowly. Do not overwhelm others; just let them know you are working on yourself.
We never want to attempt to make amends when it will harm or injure another person. Sexual sins are the most frequent sin in which amends cannot practically be made. You may feel guilty about having an affair with another man's wife, but it would most likely destroy their marriage if you went to his wife or him, asking for forgiveness. Old flames are probably not to be tracked down, even if there's no harm to be done to the other person. With the impulse to make amends to old flames, it is imperative to check one's motive. Never make amends at someone else's expense. Never.
What about people that we can no longer be in contact with? Perhaps the person has died or moved away. I have written many letters that wound up in my paper shredder. But the process of writing the letter had a great healing effect. Writing out your confession and asking forgiveness brings you from the point of denial about your problem, to the realization that you were the problem or at least a part of the problem.
Make amends with yourself. Honestly try to forgive yourself for the harm you have caused to yourself. Often our sin disease harms us more than others. Be willing to forgive yourself, to accept your forgiveness and to accept the forgiveness that God will give you.
Is Step Nine easy? No way. I will emphasize, once again, the importance of handling Step Nine with the utmost prudence.
John 3:11 (NLT) This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
Father, protect us from ourselves, and give us your strength, courage and wisdom to make amends with those we have harmed. Help us to avoid lying to ourselves, and help us to be completely honest in our assessment of our past. Father, forgive us for our sins, and surround our hearts with your love and power. In Christ's name, Amen.