The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XXXXV
So in the last several blogs I have raised the question about who, as a church, are we called to serve? To whom shall we lay our lives down for ( IJohn 3:16)? Today I ask the question, “How are we to lay down our lives?”
The key to this answer lies in the word “restitution ”. Restitution is a word most people have no idea of its definition. An online legal dictionary (http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/q044.htm ) has defined it as: “An equitable remedy that restores a person to the position they would have been in if not for the improper action of another. Reimbursements ordered by courts as apart of a criminal sentence or civil or administrative penalty. Restitution is a standard of remedy for breach of contract and for the return of specific property and monies paid.”
I think Charles Dickens in his infamous Christmas Carol tries to depict the definition of restitution through his character Scrooge, for at the end of the novel he says of Scrooge, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.” It concludes, “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” What is this knowledge he possessed. Scrooge’s “bah-humbug” attitude brought hurt and division among his family (with his nephew), resentment toward him (Cratchet’s wife), an ill reputation as being stingy toward the poor (“Do we not have poor houses, institutions?”), and employee/employer divisions (with Cratchet). He has hurt and used a lot of people to obtain his goal, wealth. Only when faced with the understanding of his past, those things that molded him, when faced with his current actions and decisions, and faced with the consequences of all of this, does he decide to make a change, a turning point.
In the church world, we call that turning point “repentance”. He was more than “sorry” for what he did; he practices “restitution” with “repentance”: he gave back more than what was required “legally”. He not only gives the Cratchets a turkey, but the “prized” turkey; he not only gives Bob Cratchet a raise, but makes him his “business partner” so that when he dies all that he owns is Cratchet’s! He doesn’t share just sympathy towards Tiny Tim’s illness, but gives him “life” by paying for all the bills. It alludes to the fact that he goes even beyond that, “and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.” He was now into building relationships which I am sure his nephew benefited from. And to those who in the city frowned on his frugality, snide remarks, and sarcasm, “He became as good a friend, as a good master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
Restitution in the kingdom of God goes beyond an apology, goes beyond the legal definition of making it right as if it never happened. Restitution, in the New Testament Biblical sense, means going the second mile, giving more than your cloak if asked, forgiving 70 X 7, doing more than is required of you. It requires “laying down your life” for others. The price for our sins was Jesus laying down his life for us, going beyond our sin, carrying all the sins of the world, not only extending forgiveness, but giving “eternal life”, life beyond this earth, with Him. Amazingly Jesus has given the Church the tools needed to carry out this restitution called “grace” and “mercy”.
Scrooge had acquired the knowledge of the Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit which guided him to go far beyond what was required of him to mend the hurts of the past he had created, the emptiness of the present, and the disappointments of the future. Cratchet, Tiny Tim, his nephew and others now became more important than he. He was no longer “Number #1”; others were. That is the spirit of “laying down one’s life for his brethren”, the spirit of serving, the spirit of maturing into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
How do you “equip, prepare” the saints for the work of the service? Simply by allowing that Christmas Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, his Holy Spirit, to confront you, change you, and nurture and develop you to go beyond what is expected. It may also be your defining “turning point”. That is a good start.