Sue loved her new sweater. She couldn’t wait to show it to her friend Leslie. The two decided to meet for dinner and a movie. Leslie loved the sweater too. She immediately said, “That sweater would be perfect for my office party. Can I borrow it?” Sue hesitated, but decided a friend was more valuable than an article of clothing, so she agreed. When she got the sweater back, there was a hole under the arm. Leslie apologized profusely, saying, “It must have unraveled. I’m so sorry.” Sue nodded and said, “Oh, it’s okay.” But things were never the same between the two of them. Sue felt that Leslie had taken advantage of her. Leslie thought Sue had overreacted over a simple article of clothing. Over time, the friendship unraveled like the sweater. What would have happened if Leslie had offered to repair or replace the sweater . . . and maybe added a scarf to apologize?
When God gave Moses the Law, he instituted a system of restitution: Anyone who injured another paid the price for what was stolen or destroyed and added 20 percent to the value. We may think of restitution as justice for the wronged party and punishment for the offender. But restitution offers more: It builds a bridge between the two parties, paving the way for relationships to be restored. By confessing the sin and compensating for any loss, the offender no longer has to deal with guilt. Receiving restitution and more frees the injured party from feeling unfairly treated.
Forgiveness from God coupled with responsibility toward the other person are key to restoring relationships. In Jesus’ eyes, those broken relationships are always our responsibility. If someone has something against us, he calls us to go and make it right (see Matthew 5:23–24). If we have something against another, we’re responsible to take the initiative to settle our differences with them (see Matthew 18:15). It’s not always comfortable. But it’s always the right thing to do.
Do you feel taken advantage of? Maybe it’s time to engage someone in conversation rather than detach from your relationship with them. Or maybe you’ve unintentionally mistreated a friend . . . you owe them money or lunch or a favor. Consider what needs to be done and take action: Repay the debt, replace the item and apologize for a wrong. Do whatever it takes to restore the relationship. Do it because it pleases God and because your relationships will be richer for it.
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.’ “