Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A conversation about: "Restitution"

The following is a conversation between Reggie Rivett and myself on the topic of restitution. Reggie is one of my best friends in the whole world. He was the best man at my wedding. I was the best man at his wedding! We attended Horizon College & Seminary together and share a long history of 'thinking out-loud' about theology. I invite you to enjoy this conversation between two friends. 

Should restitution still be practiced in the church? Or does that fly in the face of grace and forgiveness? ‪#‎ex22‬.3 ‪#‎theology‬

Define restitution.

1: a sum of money paid in compensation for loss or injury 
2: the act of restoring something to its original state
3: getting something back again;

If there is restitution, I would think that it would flow out of a reconciliation of the relationship and only at the initiation of the offender. If we forgive expecting & demanding a restitution, then that is not forgiveness. That is payment.

In that case, we are then force to swallow the loss by ourselves. There is no repercussions for sin. It does not cost. 
Is that consistent with Scripture?

Yes we are forgiven of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ, but we still have to live with the consequences, don't we?

I suppose that if we frame the discussion as 'forced to swallow' rather than 'compelled by the love of God to reciprocate Divine forgiveness towards others' it takes on a different light. 
Does God inflict humanity with repercussions in order to forgive us? Did the Father of the prodigal punish the younger son in order to reconcile him? (Luke 15) 
What if Christians should 'forgive as the Lord forgives' (Col 3.13)? That is to say... freely, without condition, and willing to absorb sin in order to condemn it. (Rom 8.3) 
RE: Consequences. Yes, sin has built in consequences. The younger son experienced the results of his actions. I don't see the Father punishing the younger son to get his 'pound of flesh' in order to forgive. Do you?

God does not inflict humanity with repercussions for forgiveness. But that doesn't mean that our "bad behaviour" doesn't have consequence.If that were the case, we could do anything and simply plead forgiveness to avoid the ramifications of our actions. 
The question is does sin come built in with consequences, and does God and His forgiveness remove them?
If we say there is no consequence to our sin, why not go on sinning? There would be grace and it would abound over our sins...

The end goal of forgiveness is reconciliation. (one-ness) The Father of the Prodigal Son had obviously already forgiven him, as demonstrated by his running out to his lost son. We can choose to forgive someone 70 x 7 but that does not always entail reconciliation. The son had to 'come home' in order to be reconciled. We too in our relationships must allow people to come to their senses and come home; so to speak. This does not always happen.  
Forgiveness is not saying 'it didn't happen'. It's not cheap. You had to absorb the loss. You had to take the hit. Forgiveness is choosing to refrain from retribution and cancel the debt owed to you. The younger son still squandered half the families inheritance. The money was not coming back. But a 'lost and dead' son DID come back. Forgiveness seeks to rescue that which can be saved.  
Does God remove consequences? I don't know. I am sure you could make a case for yes & no. I know God allows 'those in authority' to punish evildoers who sin against the State (Rom 13). On the other hand, Paul's vision of the church is one that 'overcomes evil with good' (Rom 12), leaves room for God's wrath and forgives and welcomes sinners. 
No where in Paul do I see evidence of a retributive justice, but rather Paul, and the other NT authors are consistently restorative in matters of church discipline. Consider the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul doesn’t instruct the Corinthians to punish the man with the sword (whatever that means), but rather hands the man over to satan (v5a) and instructs the church to expel the man from the church. (v13) Paul does all of this correction in hopes “that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”(v5b) You could also make the case that reconciliation did happen to this man. (Check out 2 Corinthians 2:5-11) 

Hold up. I agree with you. We are just talking the same subject from two different perspectives.If someone sins against us, and restitution is required, as Christians grace and forgiveness should be our response. Totally agree. 
I am thinking, when WE sin against someone, Christians or not, we should be paying restitution.We come asking for forgiveness and start mending the hurt, bringing restoration by way of restitution.

Certainly, the younger son thought he could earn forgiveness in order to be welcomed back as a servant in the Father's house. I am sure he was shocked at the response of his gracious, relationship-restoring Father.

I do not think we can always bring restitution. If it is in our financial ability, we might be able to replace material objects.But how do you bring restitution when you've broken relationships through hurtful actions? 

How does a murderer bring restitution to his victims family? He simply cannot. There is nothing in the world to replace a person. 

How does a cheating wife//husband bring restitution to her//his spouse? Is there anything they could do to 'payback' that kind of damage to a marriage? 

I think more is involved in the repentance process than mere payback. Consider what Paul says about thieves in Ephesus: 
"Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." - Ephesians 4:28
He doesn't just say, payback what you owe. He gives them a whole new operating system to model their lives after. They do have to "work" instead of steal. But then Paul doesn't end with 'stop stealing, and start earning'.... he says that they need to embody a new perspective that is a full repentance of the old ways. Those that steal must then learn to "share with those in need". Its a complete 180 degree turn around to a new way of living.

An example of what I am talking about from the lips of Reg Rivett.
One guy offered to take down his neighbour's barb wire fence from his pasture if he could keep the wire. He drove over a rock while rolling the wire and started a fire that burned his neighbour's crop. It was estimated to be $1 million in damages. No insurance, since it wasn't his field. As a Christian he is paying back his neighbour.
That is what I am talking about.

I really like the example you've shared. I really respect the person's decision to pay his neighbour for the losses. Question though.... Is that restitution or functioning as a 'just' person? At least the way I understand restitution, is that there is a relational divide, a chasm...etc. It's framed within conflict resolution. 

If there is no conflict, can there be restitution? I'd like to say that the story you provided is an example of love & justice rather than conflict restitution. He took the initiative even though he probably could have said it was an accident and walked away.

All that to say... It's probably a good idea to pay back what you owe in a financial sense. That is being a 'just' person. Call it restitution if you want. 

Thanks for reading! 

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