Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Three “R”s of Christian Living

The Three “R”s of Christian Living

Recently I was thinking about education and what is necessary for person to be properly educated. I was reminded that we have always considered three things essential for a good education. You know what I mean, the “3 R’s” (Reading, Riting and Rithmetic). When it comes to Christianity I also got to thinking that there three “R”s that are also very important to Christian living: Repentance, Reconciliation & Restitution. These three “R”s are essential for life in the body and the lack of even one of these can cause the body not only hurt but also harm.

So what are these Rs and what does it mean to us in our search to be a healthy body?

Repentance, according to the Baker Biblical Encyclopedia, means a literal change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a sinful course of action to God. It means a 180 degree turn in direction. One admits that they were wrong and changes their way. This is the beginning of the salvific process and adoption into the Family of God.

After we have become a follower of Jesus Christ we continue to practice repentance whenever we sin (fail to hit the mark) in our Christian life. (1 John 1:9) Additionally when we have harmed another we need to repent to that person as well. This is so important that Jesus teaches us that if we have sinned against another we are not even to worship until we repent. (Matt 5:23-24)

Speaking of seeking forgiveness let me just suggest that when we ask for forgiveness we need to take responsibility for our actions. We often want to blame circumstances or others for our actions. I remember that I used to chuckle when years ago one of my relatives apologized by saying “I’m sorry you made me do that!” That is not repentance. A final thought would be to make sure that in taking responsibility we accept it in the first person not the third. It is so much easier to say that “Vallen Prest (substitute your own name) was wrong” then to say “I was wrong!” Don’t think so? Try it for yourself and see if it isn’t so. Third person repentance to some degree lets us off the hook.

Restoration happens when friendly relationships and of peace replace hostility and alienation. Ordinarily it also includes the removal of the offense which caused the disruption of peace and harmony. In the New Testament reconciliation also denotes a changed relationship in which formerly estranged persons or elements experience a restored harmony. Christians should seek reconciliation between themselves and any estranged community member, especially before offering a gift at the altar (Matt. 5:24) or going to settle disputes before a magistrate (Luke 12:58).

Matthew 5:24 speaks of reconciliation as an important factor in restoring a relationship with both God and the person we have harmed. The goal is always a reestablishment of broken relationships (either between God and a human or person to person) Galatians 6:1.

One might ask “What if the person I have offended is unwilling to forgive me or reconcile?” Seeking forgiveness is important for the person who has sinned. It reestablishes our relationship with Father. Jay Adams suggested that we think of it as a game of tennis. We are commanded by God to serve the ball of repentance to the offended. Regardless of if the ball is returned or not we have been obedient in serving up forgiveness. To forgive the one who has harmed us releases us from the burden of anger and frustration. It also keeps our relationship with Father fresh and unhindered.

The final “R” is restitution. This is the return of something lost or stolen so that the original situation is restored. This central theme of the OT law is supremely fulfilled through Jesus Christ making restitution for Adam’s sin, thus restoring fellowship with God and hope of eternal life. T. C. Oden says that restitution re-establishes equality where an unjust taking has caused inequality.

There are three levels of positive effects accompany acts of restitution (or reparation):

Exterior penances are performed principally to produce three effects:

  • To satisfy for past sins.
  • To overcome ourselves, so that sensuality will be obedient to reason and our lower inclinations be subject to higher ones.
  • To seek and find some grace or gift that we wish to obtain, as for instance … the solution of some doubt that is troubling us. (Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, pp. 62–63)

In Luke 19 in speaking of Zacchaeus’ repentance and subsequent salvation it is Zacch’s restitution that causes Jesus to proclaim in Luke 19:9 “Today salvation has come to this house!” Restitution is incredibly important to the 3 R process of Christian living.

Have you completed the process of the 3 “R”s? Are any left undone? All three “R”s are important for the life of the church. Repentance becomes a hollow, feigned act, without restoration and restitution.

Still studying my “R”s

Pastor Val

1 comment:

Dwight said...

'Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said "Repent", willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.'

Repentence is key...