Restitution vs. Reconciliation

We recently had an issue with one of our kids who thought that by doing extra chores after they sinned rebelliously they would avoid the consequences of their sin. This is what I explained to them.

I want to talk with you about this sin. I think it is good that you did some chores after your sin. It is a sign that you recognize your sin and wanted to make restitution in some way. This is a key theme in the Bible and I am glad you want to follow it. I also want you to understand that nowhere in the Bible does restitution – even where it is made perfectly – eliminate the guilt from the sin that required the restitution. This is also true today, especially considering that you did do something but it did not truly restore what was lost from your sin.

God wants your heart, not your restitution. Restitution is something God in His mercy provided to make civil society work better. If people went around sinning all the time with only eternal consequences life for the righteous would be pretty hard. We see that today in countries where certain types of people are allowed to be sinned against without any kind of consequence. In lots of countries, those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Restitution is God’s invention and a way He shows his mercy to those who have been sinned against, but it is not sufficient to save anyone.

Many people try to use restitution to say they don’t deserve consequences for their sin. You see this all the time in the news. Someone does something wrong but they want no punishment because of all the good they have done. Or they tell the judge “I’ll never do it again”. These people miss the point. The Bible is clear that there is a big difference between discipline and restitution. Restitution is to protect the heart of the victim against bitterness and restore his/her loss, not to save the sinner from the kind of consequence that will drive him or her to Jesus. Sacrificing something of our own choosing does not in any way remove the guilt of our sin.

The most famous Bible account of this is in 1 Samuel 15. Here God commanded King Saul to destroy everything of the people he was going to war against. After the victory, Saul had a better idea. He decided he would “obey” God by keeping the livestock but sacrificing the best ones to the Lord. God condemned him for that and actually said He was sorry He ever made Saul king. This is the place where we find the verse “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God wants us to do what we are told to do, not find ways to make up for our failures. This one “little” sin is what caused God to rip the kingdom away from Saul and give it to David.

Think about the implications of that for you. You cannot go through life believing that you can disobey and find a way to “make up for it” later. God loves you too much to let that happen and we love you too much to let that happen. This next point is extremely important. To believe that restitution somehow eliminates your guilt is to deny Jesus Christ, because the truth is His death is the only thing that can eliminate your guilt. The guilt for our sin is not gone because we got better or made up for it but because Jesus paid for it already on the cross. You cannot make past sins go away by future good works.
I hope you know how much I love you. I pray that you will consider these things and how important it is to confess your sin to the Lord and to those your sin against. Ask for forgiveness. It waits for you at the foot of the cross, not in a sink without dirty dishes or a freshly vacuumed floor.

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