Today’s Reading: Numbers 5-6
Today’s Reflection: Numbers 5:6-7
6) “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, 7) he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.
The word confession is one commonly understood, especially among Christians. We recognize there is a need to admit when we have done wrong, to confess it to God, to apologize to those we have wronged, and to ask forgiveness for our mistakes.
Even the world recognizes this: celebrities in scandal, politicians caught in corruption or wrongdoing, religious leaders caught violating their principles. It has become a common sight to see these public figures at press conferences (with faithful spouses at their side), on afternoon or late night talk shows, after stints in rehab, and pouring out their hearts and confessing their errors in judgment in best selling memoirs. It has been said we live in a ‘culture of apology’. But I find our culture highly flawed for two critical reasons.
The first is that the apology is often preceded by denial, a refusal to take responsibility for ones actions. It seems often that it is only after incontrovertible, irrefutable evidence has been presented that many of these figures are actually willing to apologize for their actions. After repeated insistence that one has done nothing wrong, in spite of the facts, the sincerity of the confession can’t help but lose something.
Even more important, the apology is often treated like it is the point. As though admitting to having done wrong is in and of itself the only important thing. The reality is that wrongdoing causes harm and if one is truly sorry for their mistakes confession and apology is only the first step.
Numbers 5:6-7 instructed the children of Israel to make restitution when one had done wrong to another. To repay the one wronged, and to make that repayment exceed what was lost by a fifth. This isn’t always possible—a life taken cannot be returned, for example—but as far as one is able the attempt is to be made to repair the damage done when they’ve sinned against somebody. Restitution cannot remove the stain of sin—only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can do that—but it does show we really take responsibility both for our actions and for helping those we have sinned against.
We serve a just God who promises every wrong will be set right and every hurt repaid. When we confess our sins we receive forgiveness because of Jesus Christ the Righteous. But when we make restitution we also make ourselves partners in the Kingdom life in which God restores people from the brokenness caused by the wrongs inflicted against them and begins the process of making them whole. Consider this the next time you find yourself needing to confess—don’t forget to take the next step.