A week later George made another appointment to visit with Pastor Jones.
“Hi George, Pastor Jones began. “Before we begin today, let’s pray. Father, thank you for George and for what you’re doing in his life. Please glorify yourself as we talk and bless George with new things to live for and to do for your glory. Amen.”
“Amen!” added George.
“Wow, George, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard such a spirited amen. What’s going on with you?”
“Well, after our time together last week, I went home and began reading in the Gospel of John, like you said to do. It was amazing. I learned so many things, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess the main thing I learned is that Jesus isn’t a mean, nasty ogre in the sky. He is a loving and sweet man, with a lot of care and concern for his people. It was amazing to see that he died for his people, that I’m one of his people, and that God raised him from the dead.”
“Wait a minute,” interjected Pastor Jones. “Some of that isn’t in the book of John.”
“I know, I know,” said George. “I didn’t get to the best part. After I finished John, I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept on reading. In fact I also read the book of Acts and am part of the way through Romans.”
Wow! That’s great.”
“But now I have so many questions, I don’t even know where to start. I suppose I should go back to what I began with last week. Now that I’m doing better with God, what can be done for my relationship with Fred and Gloria?”
Okay, let’s talk about Fred and Gloria”
“Super! Where do we begin?”
Pastor Jones began, “In Matthew 22:38-39 Jesus said, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“What we’ve done this past week is to repair your relationship with God. On the basis of Jesus death on the cross, you have been able to confess and repent from your sins, and restore your relationship with God. The fact that you read so much this past week and did it with joy and exuberance, with no one telling you to do it, is a sign that God has filled you with his joy and you are walking with him. So, you’re doing well with the first commandment.
“Now let’s talk about the second commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Yes, that’s what I want,” said George, “especially with regard to Fred and Gloria.”
“Okay,” began Pastor Jones. “What does the verse say?”
“It says to love my neighbor as I love myself,” said George.
“Right. Now, let’s break it down. Who is your neighbor?”
“It seems like it should mean something other than just the fellow who lives next door. I’m not sure what you’re asking for,” said George.
Good. Here’s something Jesus said about who our neighbor is:
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”” (Luke 10:30–36)
George answered as if the question was being asked of him. “I suppose the one who had compassion on the fellow who had been mugged. That’s interesting that Jesus said the one who helped was the neighbor, not the one who was hurt. I wonder why he spun it around.”
“I believe it was because the one to whom Jesus was talking was trying to justify himself and to present himself as more than he should have. Jesus assumed that man who was beat up was a neighbor, and pointed out that the man who was the good neighbor was a Samaritan, a member of a hated race. And now, the one hearing the story was to imitate the Samaritan. It was a humbling experience for him.”
“I’ve heard that story before. Don’t they call it the story of the good Samaritan?” Pastor Jones nodded. “So, essentially, I am supposed to take care of anyone I come across, even if he is my enemy?”
Again, Pastor Jones nodded.
“Now according to the command, how are you to love your neighbor?” Said Pastor Jones.
“In the same way I love myself?” asked George. “What does that mean?”
“It means that in the same way that you would like to be treated, you should treat others. You might ask yourself, if I were in that person’s shoes, how would I like to be treated right now? In the story Jesus told, the Samaritan treated the fellow who was mugged, like he would like to be treated. I would also add that in God’s economy, because this is all a gift, we should move to the next level and go beyond what we would desire for ourselves. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said,
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38–42)
“This how we are to treat those who are evil. We are supposed to go beyond what they are expecting and love them with blessing, for their good, and God’s glory.
“So, when we love someone who is our neighbor, we should go beyond what we would like were we the one being helped. As you think about the story about the Samaritan, isn’t that what the good neighbor does for gent who was mugged? The Samaritan went beyond what was necessary and did what was best for the fellow. He loved him as he loved himself. Does that make sense?”
George had a puzzled look on his face when he said, “Okay, that makes sense, but what does it have to do with Fred and Gloria?”
“Think about it for a moment. What did you do to Fred and Gloria to create the relationship you currently have with them?”
“I lied about them, I really slandered them. I caused Jeff to lose his job, and to be forced out of his church. I caused heartache for him, which I’m sure caused him to lose sleep, and maybe to become sick. I tempted him to become angry with me, to hate me, to want to do bad things to me. I don’t know that he would even be happy to see me. In fact, if I were him, I wouldn’t want to see me.”
“So,” Pastor Jones said, “you sort of mugged him. You did the same thing to him that the robbers did to the man in Jesus’ story, without actually hitting him with sticks.”
“You are the mugger in the story?”
“Okay,” Pastor Jones said, “if you were to put yourself in Jeff’s shoes, the muggee’s shoes, what would you like to see happen to restore the relationship and provide healing to your ‘wounds’?”
“I guess I would like to see the mugger fix all the things he’s broken.”
“And what would that look like?”
“I suppose, in order to fix things, I would need to ask God to get involved. Things have been broken beyond repair. Jeff hates me. Gloria, I’m sure, doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. Only God can fix this relationship. Otherwise, I don’t see things ever being repaired.”
“Those are very good observations,” Pastor Jones said. “God needs to get involved, but he has given some principles to help us in our situation. Here they are: 1John 1:9 says, ‘if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ I know you know this from experience, but did you know the Bible actually says it? This past week you have been confessing your sins to God and have been repenting and turning more and more of your life over to him.”
“I have,” said George. “I read those verses about laying down my life and taking up my cross and following him, and I’m sold out to Jesus. All I want is to glorify him and to bless him.”
“That’s great,” said Pastor Jones, “now you need another verse that will begin the repair with Jeff and Gloria. Jesus tells us ‘Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:23–24).”
“You mean I need go to Jeff and Gloria?”
“You do. You need to go to them and be reconciled. That means you need to do whatever you need to do to make things right with them. Based on what we said above about loving your neighbor, the mugger loving the muggee, what do you think you might need to do to reconcile with Jeff and Gloria?”
“Wow!” George said, “I have no idea. Maybe if I went to those I’ve lied to about Jeff and told them that everything I told them about him was a lie. But that would take some doing and I’m not sure I’m up for that.”
Pastor Jones gave George that “wise old man” look and said, “when you were talking about laying down your life and taking up your cross, what did that mean?”
“It meant that I have counted the cost and I would be willing to die for Jesus. If the Muslim raiders came and told me to deny Christ or die, I would be willing to die for Jesus.”
Well, then,” Pastor Jones said, “are there other ways to die? In other words, don’t you need to do a kind of dying to go to all those people you lied to and tell them that you lied? Don’t you need to lay down your reputation, your status, and your machoness, and humble yourself, and tell people that you lied? Isn’t that a kind of dying? And, because you are confessing these things as an act of obedience to Jesus in the same way that not denying him to the Muslim hordes is an act of obedience, shouldn’t you view your confession of sin as a kind of “taking up your cross?”
“Wow! This is a heavy day. I had no idea that taking up my cross would mean so much. I’ll need to think about it.”
“Okay,” Pastor Jones said, “while you’re thinking about that, here’s something else to think about: there is a principle in the Bible called restitution. Here is one verse that mentions it, “Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal” (Leviticus 24:18; also see Ex. 21:30-36; 22:1-4; Lev. 6:2-5; Num. 5:7; Job 20:18; Pro. 6:30, 31; Ex. 33:15; Lk. 19:8). What this means is that if you take something that belongs to someone else, you need to restore it. If you kill something that belongs to someone else, you need to make that death right with their owner. If you harmed someone’s life because of something you did to their property, you need to repair their suffering and make their life better than it was when you got involved with them.”
“Stop! I can’t take it anymore. Now you’re piling on.”
“Actually, I’m just helping you make things right with Fred and Gloria. You haven’t even talked with them yet,” said Pastor Jones. This is difficult, I admit, but if you really want to make things right with Fred and Gloria and you want to love them like God calls us to love our neighbors, can you think of a better way to be reconciled to them?”
“I guess I can’t.”
“What if you take all this information away, look up all the passages we ‘ve talked about, and ask God what he thinks you ought to do? Then come back next week and we’ll go on from there.”
“Sounds good to me.” George said with a sigh. “Before I go, if I were to try to do all this, what do you think I should do with Fred and Gloria?”
Pastor Jones said, “here’s what I suggest: go to as many people as you can find and confess your sin to them. Be specific, letting them know that everything you said was untrue and that Fred is really a great guy. Also, if you can talk to people face to face, do. Then write letters to everyone you can’t immediately find, you know people who have moved away, and tell them the same things you told the local people. Finally, you should go to Fred and ask if you can talk with him and Gloria. If he agrees to a visit, go to him and tell him about your new faith in Jesus. Then, confess your sin, own the sin, let him know that you know you don’t deserve anything from him, but it would be really cool if he could find it in his heart to forgive you. And tell him that it would be great if you could be friends again. Also tell him about what you’ve done to ‘fix’ things with other people and that if he can think of anything you have forgotten, you want to know what it is, so you can fix that as well.
“If you can’t meet with him face to face, write him a gracious letter. Be specific in the letter, just like you were going to do if you could have spoken to him in person.
“Through all of this, you should be in prayer that God will bless and that your relationship will be restored. Then, after each conversation, you should thank God for whatever comes from what you’ve done. God will be in it, no matter what Fred does with your confession and repentance.”
“Again, Wow! You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you. I’ll do what you suggest and let you know how it goes next week.”