Restoration in a Transformational Community 20: The Toughest Hill – Restitution
The third phase of the restoration process is restitution. Though none of these phases are easy, this is going to be the most challenging one for the team and the person. The questions that have to be explored are: “Who do you owe?” and “What do you owe?” The team is not there to answer these questions, but to lead the person to hear from God. This part of restoration often reveals how far the team still has to go in dealing with the person’s unrepentant heart and is the reason this phase is so hard. This can be uphill work!
Restitution is rooted in the justice of God. If someone has been robbed, then God’s justice requires a repayment of what was lost, with a value added gift on top of it. You see this understanding in Zacchaeus’ response to his changed heart in Luke 19 when he is ready to give half of his goods to the poor and repay back four times the amount he had defrauded from others.
For a person to be caught up in sin, they have usually defrauded someone. The loot stolen may be time, or dignity, or peace of mind, family ties or actual property. As those who are guiding this person back towards intimacy with God and others, you have an obligation to help him or her face this.
Be aware that the first answers are usually shallow. The person will see restitution as being only about apologies. She or he may want to shrug off the implications of restitution because it brings them a sense of guilt instead of freedom.
If you detect this in the person, then know that the person is still not yet spiritually restored. Encourage the person to listen to the Spirit about what he or she needs to own and pay out in time, finances, or some other form that is right. One helpful way to draw the person in more deeply would be to ask him or her what he or she would expect in return if the situation were reversed.
I found that substituting my voice for the Spirit in this matter only produces resentment towards me instead of submission to what God wants. This is how you know it’s real: When the person responds willingly to the Spirit instead of doing what you have suggested she or he should do.
One final note. Sometimes the person who was sinned against will have nothing to do with the believer you are restoring. I was part of a situation where physical threats were made if the now repentant believer made any personal contact with the injured one. If possible, someone on the team should try to open this kind of shut door. But sometimes you cannot. This situation should be a focus for prayer, but not a stopping point in the restoration process.