Repentance Must Include Making Amends

In 2 Samuel 21, we read this about the nation of Israel and about King David in particular:

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the LORD’s inheritance?”

So who are these Gibeonites? In the book of Joshua, we see this group of people called the Gibeonites. They were from a small town in Canaan. Israel’s army had already conquered Jericho and Ai, and it looked like Gibeon was next. They pretended they were actually from a long way away. They appeared on the road as if traveling a great distance. They agreed to be servants of the Israelites if they would swear an oath not to kill them.

Joshua agrees to spare their lives. Then they find out the Gibeonites had lied to them. What did they do? God told them not to harm this group of people because Israel had sworn an oath of protection. Case closed.

Here is the interesting part. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that King Saul killed this people group. We are left to assume it happened; it just wasn’t recorded. This is not uncommon. What King wants his misdeeds published everywhere? King Saul is known for his rash and emotional decisions. One can assume his slaughter of the Gibeonites was one of those.

Regardless, 2 Samuel 21 tells us the consequence. There was three years of famine. The Bible is clear that some crimes are not forgotten. Capital crimes such as murder launch significant after-effects.

When Cain killed Abel, God had this to say about it in Genesis 4:

10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain’s murder of his brother actually affected the very earth he would be working. I believe that murder has that effect. Murder will change a place, even to the very ground the blood is spilled upon. But that is the subject for another post.

David realizes the famine is caused by the slaughter of this group the Gibeonites. His first response is to ask the remaining family members: ““What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the LORD’s inheritance?”

Anyone who has ever been part of a 12-step recovery group will recognize this step. It is called “making amends”. If you have hurt, offended, stole from, abused, dishonored, or lied to other people, as part of your recovery from those acts, you should certainly repent. And real repentance always includes making amends.

And, hear me…the amends should meet the satisfaction of the person you have hurt.

Zacchaeus understood this. When he stood up and invited Jesus into his home, this tax collector–who had stolen money from many people–boldly declared, “If I have stolen from anyone, I will pay back four times the amount.”

It is common decency to allow a victim to say “here is how I want you to make your amends to me.”

I walked into a church meeting one afternoon with a  young woman who had been assaulted by the pastor. The church board had asked me to mediate the situation. They were a church of 200 and they loved their pastor. Unfortunately, when they heard the accusations of this woman, they didn’t believe her. Many people in the church victim-shamed her, trying to say she was sleeping around and blaming the pastor for her indiscretions.

Eventually, she was able to convince the church she had been offended by him. He later admitted it, but claimed she had seduced him. Many of the church’s leaders said they believed the pastor. They wanted him disciplined for a few months and then returned to the pulpit.

But when we sat in that church meeting, they asked me what I thought should happen. My answer was simple.

Let’s ask the woman who was hurt.

So they asked. And she answered.

She told them this simply. “I don’t believe this man should ever have the access to people like he did with me. I don’t think he should ever be a pastor again.”

“And I don’t think that any of the leaders who called me a slut should be allowed to ever be in leadership again.”

When she was done, there was a gasp, a silent moment, and then the applause started.

The church fired the pastor and advised the licensing board that he never serve again. I do not believe he was ever a pastor again.

Every one of the leaders who spoke against the young woman resigned and the church never elected any of them again.

What will you do when your Gibeonites come to call?

5 thoughts on “Repentance Must Include Making Amends

  1. What a pity there so few christians who grasp this concept – especially amongst church leaders. The last time I asked someone (a ‘pastor’) to make amends after they’d *said* they were sorry, I was told I was being “abusive” and that my words were “from the pit of hell”. Made me think that maybe his “sorry” hadn’t really been sincere after all.

    1. You are correct. I don’t consider repentance that avoids making amends to be from the Holy Spirit. I work with sex offenders, drug addicts, alcoholics and many other addictive people. One of the steps in every 12 step program is making amends. None of them argue about it. But Christians often do. And we have Holy Spirit living inside of us. What is up with that?

      1. Hmm… maybe it’s because, just like in Jesus’s day, those who are broken and needy are open to the Spirit – and those who consider themselves righteous simply don’t have ears to hear.

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