Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 5:6-13
Several years ago when I went to Taiwan, someone had the poor judgment to allow me to ride one of the scooters that are so popular there for travelers. A lot like small motorcycles, these scooters were small vehicles, typically plastered with strange brand name slogans such as "Soar like a duck!" When I was given the chance to ride this scooter, I went around the parking lot a few times, thought I had the feel for it, and then headed out onto the road, where I immediately lost control of the vehicle and collided with a parked scooter on the other side of the street. I picked myself and both scooters up and then knocked on the door of the apartment to let the guy know what had happened. Somewhat in amazement that I didn't simply run away, the man and I walked his bike down the street to a repair shop where I immediately paid for the damages and had the scooter repaired.
I have often thought back on that experience (in part because it was so much less painful than accident protocol in the U.S.) but also because I was scared to death when I knocked on that stranger's door to confess what I had done to his scooter. I knew I was going to have to pay for the damages and wasn't sure yet how much they were going to cost me (a scary possibility being in a country half-way around the world). But I never really considered telling the man, "I'm sorry for wrecking your scooter. I promise not to do it again," and then walking away. That would have been ludicrous and he probably would have called the cops on me. It wasn't enough that I simply didn't repeat my mistake. I had to make the situation right.
When Nehemiah confronted the nobles and officials who had been exploiting the people, he didn't simply say, "Stop this behavior!" Rather, he told them, "Let us stop charging interest! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them-- the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil." (Nehemiah 5:10-11, NIV). As far as Nehemiah was concerned, too, it wasn't enough to simply never exploit the people again. The right thing to do was to rectify the situation, to correct the abuses which had occurred, and to make up for those mistakes.
Too often, especially if it is something no one knows about or no one has specifically mentioned, we let ourselves off way too easy when we wrong someone. We may realize that we were in the wrong and choose to stop the behavior, but we never make up for it. For most of us, it is much easier to stop doing the wrong thing and never acknowledge it, to act as if it never happened, than it is to make up for the pain we have caused someone. But when we have hurt people, we cannot be content with simply not hurting them again; we must rectify the situation. We must make it right if it is at all possible. Sometimes that process makes us vulnerable. Sometimes, it opens us up to being hurt in return. But we must try to make the situation right rather than simply discontinuing the bad behavior. Relationships aren't healed when people stop hurting each other. Relationships are healed when the offended and the offender reach out to each other to make the situation right.
If you have wronged someone, don't be content with not repeating your mistake. Do the right thing and make it right.
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