I think the two most tormenting feelings in this world are guilt and regret. I only experience this when I know I have consciously let people who trust me down. When they express how hurt they are, it wrecks me.
For six months this year, I have been burdened with guilt and regret over a matter that got out of my control. And to make amends, I had prayed, cried, given, talked, confessed, contemplated, and done so much. I even called the person I had wronged and apologized two more times. Despite all my effort, the feeling would leave me for a few days only to creep up again unconsciously. I was so scared that sometime in the future, a protégé would do to me the same as I had done to the person.
I got tired of all my gymnastics, and I went to sit with God with a heart open to hear him say what he would have me do about the matter.
Finally, He said, “let go”.
It was more like an instruction I heard in my heart. To leave the matter and let him be God over it. To stop striving in my effort to restitute. To stop fear from motivating me to do good or be better in my relationships. To believe that when I first came to him begging for forgiveness and repenting, he kept no record of my wrongdoing. He also showed me all the giving I did to try to salvage my conscience was rather sinful. It was as though I was trying to bribe him to give me peace when His word already affirms that he forgives once we confess.
At this point, I am convinced that under grace, we are not under any obligation to perform “restitutive” acts to those who we have hurt. If we so wish to, it would only be for conscience’s sake and a religious act. It is not a requirement. This conviction is not just based on my feelings or my experience. One might be tempted to argue about the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19:8-9, where out of a deep conviction he muttered,
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”
However, Jesus never made it a requirement, but only commented on the fact that the man was now saved because he was motivated to restitute. Apostle Paul was responsible for the jailing and death of so many Christians. It would have been difficult to restitute for every soul he had hurt, let alone bringing lost lives back to life. Restitution, no doubt, has its place and I am careful not to legislate on this either. I know that the Holy Spirit can lead men to do restitution; however, we must know when it is the Lord leading us and not the spirit of guilt driving us.
It is indeed prideful to think that our works can make up for our sins – only the blood of Jesus and grace can do so. Would you let go of your works today and let God be God over the worrisome situations?