Why Restitution Message Has Taken Back Seat, By Clerics
Prior to this time, those who wholeheartedly embraced Christianity after repentance or being ‘born again’ never toyed with the aspect of restitution. While there were reports of some people rushing back to their former schools to restore stolen books and such other items, others went physically to those they had secretly offended or harmed in the past to apologise and ask for forgiveness. And those that married more than one wife sent the surplus packing. Today, however, this aspect of Christianity is not so prominent. Indeed, many preachers no longer bother the adherents with such message any more. The vogue now is to focus on prosperity message. But if restitution is biblical and considered critical to the genuineness of one’s spiritual state, why is it being gradually eroded from sermons? Clerics that spoke to CHRIS IREKAMBA on the issue attribute the development to the shift from salvation and piety to prosperity.
‘True Ministers Are Still Preaching It’
(Pastor Jerry Asemota, Church Secretary, Deeper Life Bible Church)
RESTITUTION is Biblical. It is a requirement of God and a follow up on repentance. Without restitution, repentance is not complete. For instance, if I say I have become born again, repentance is a necessity. It is a requirement by Christ for one to be able to enter the kingdom of God. If I stole somebody’s shirt and he happens to see it on me, I need to go to him and say ‘I’m sorry I stole this shirt, which belongs to you’. Even if the fellow didn’t know I was the one that stole it, the restitution has cleared my conscience. The Bible says in Romans 5:1 “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. That justification comes as a result of repentance. And the thief comes as a result of fulfilling what Christ requests us to do by faith. If Christ has done His own part, I’m going to believe in Him through faith, but that can only achieve the goal if I also do my own part to fulfill God’s requirement of repentance.
During Paul’s time in the Bible, there was a time he was accused by the Jews and they brought him before the Council. The high priest ordered that he should be slapped and Paul was not happy about that. He used a language that was very offensive and the congregation reminded him that he was talking to the high priest. Immediately, he said he was sorry, that he didn’t know he was a high priest. “Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people…”
So, restitution is making amend to what was said or returning an item that was stolen and you can go the extra length to achieve it. The golden rule is to do unto others as you would want them do unto you. So, if a man took another’s wife, whether the woman was not happy with the husband and she left is immaterial, but as long as she belongs to somebody and another man took her to be his, he must return that woman. The same applies to a man with two or three wives. As soon as he repents, he should do away with the other women after his original wife. So, restitution is applicable to any area of our lives and we do it to have a clear conscience before God and the offender. You can’t tell me you are born again and you are still using someone’s certificate that you got through dubious means. When you restitute, it makes you a true child of God and a believable witness of Jesus Christ. But if you don’t do it, Heaven will know that you have actually not repented.
In the case of the lady that got pregnant for a man, if her parents say that they want to keep the child, they are free. But the man knows that the child is his and if he chooses to take the child, he is free but it has to be by mutual agreement. The fact that the girl had a child for the man doesn’t mean he should marry her. If both, however, agree to get married, it is another scenario entirely. But the child shouldn’t be a problem. They should agree on who should keep the child. Even if a woman is already in the man’s house as his second wife, and has child or children for him and the woman decides to do restitution, the children belong to the man and he can keep them, while the woman is free to marry another person.
Those who have been preaching restitution are still doing so. However, there are those that are preaching the gospel of prosperity. The main message of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist is repentance and there is no way you can preach repentance or being born again without talking about restitution. Everybody has a past that needs to be corrected and God has forgiven the past, but for us to be able to have a good relationship with one another and before Him, we need to do restitution. If you look at the agony and shame of going to somebody to confess, ‘I’m sorry I stole this thing,’ you won’t want to do such again. So, it encourages one to be able to live a righteous life.
‘For Anyone To Have A Justified Relationship With God, Restitution Is Necessary’
(His Grace, Most Revd. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of the African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
RESTITUTION is biblical. In fact, the Bible asks us to restitute. For instance, Zacchaeus in the Bible was a tax collector, but when he met Jesus, he saw the need to restitute so that he might be blessed and also forgiven. Restitution is one of the things that God, through His Word, requires us to do, so that we can have a justified relationship with Him. If someone has stolen or defrauded another or maybe did evil, there is need for restitution for him/her to have a clear conscience.
If a lady had a child for a man, who has repented, that was done in ignorance. She has the right to call on the young man or whosoever was responsible and tell him “Although we did it in ignorance, but I’m sorry that the deed has produced a child.” In Africa, the child automatically belongs to that man. But she still has to restitute after which she can now rest assured that she has a clear conscience before God and the man. The man has to do the same thing, if he has also repented. What they did at that time was in violation of the Word of God. If the man calls the girl and says, ‘I’m sorry I impregnated you out of wedlock, please forgive me’, that has covered the whole thing. Both families should meet and the man should appreciate the family for taking care of the child.
We still preach about it. For example, few weeks ago, I preached at a burial ceremony and I told those present the truth of God’s Word. Though they were laughing, but I told them the truth that if you cheated on your wife or husband, then you have to restitute. Somebody said it was not possible, but I told them the truth. Though it’s a hard message, but some of us still preach it, especially since it is Biblical.
‘Restitution Is Making Your Past Clean’
(Rt. Rev. Nnanna Odege, Moderator, Synod of the West of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Yaba, Lagos)
I BELIEVE restitution is something that is supposed to be done. Even though in the Bible we may not see it expressly, but by implication, restitution is a command, which all Christians and believers need to undertake. It is restoring what has been stolen, given back what was taken. I believe that when we are born again, it is to enable us make peace with Christ so that we will be saved. What we did before then was done in ignorance and the scripture says in the time of ignorance, God overlooks and commands every one to repent. If you look at the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, when the latter climbed the sycamore-fig tree in the gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus said to him, ‘come down. Today I’m going to eat in your house,’ and in the course of that dialogue, Zacchaeus, a sinner and tax collector, who surcharged people, said to Jesus ‘whatever I have taken I will restitute four folds.’ So, being born again does not preclude us from undoing what has been done. So, I believe as many as have opportunity to do it and the Spirit of God moves you and you have the capacity to restitute, go ahead and do it.
In my church, we preach about restitution because what you did yester years in terms of taking what belonged to others is more or less, stealing, however you look at it, if you restitute that you are on the right part.
However, there are certain things that may not be restituted. For example, when you steal somebody’s certificate and you have been using it to work and perhaps the owner is dead, there is no how you can restitute such a thing. All you have to do is confess your sin and drop that certificate. I believe Jacob did restitution in that dimension at a time he was answering Esau, but his real name was Jacob. And so, a time came when he wanted to be real and make a meaning out of his life because there was the real him inside that he never knew. He thought he could make it in life with another person’s grace, but it was not possible until his encounter with an angel. He had to open up saying, “I have taken my brother’s birthright. I have also cheated Laban. I have done this or that but right now my real name is Jacob not Esau.” It was at that time that he came out clean.
So, restitution is making your past clean and transparent. Restitution talks about bringing yourself to the purity part, where God will take you. Restitution talks about divesting oneself of all hypocrisies and falsehood that one has been living with. The day Jacob made that confession God changed his real name to Israel. Jacob is one person while Israel is a whole nation, which means inside Jacob; there was a nation that was potentially locked up. So, when we restitute, the real us come out and break into a nation. Everything should be restituted unless in extreme cases. It is about confessing who you have been so that you can begin to live the life of who you are and what God has ordained you to be.
If a married woman has a baby outside wedlock and now shifts the responsibility to the husband, if she is a true child of God, she needs to confess her sins before her husband to let him know who the child’s father is. If they want to keep the child fine and if it is agreed that her husband should take the child, fine. But it must be done through dialogue and negotiation. The most important thing is that she must come clean and let her husband know.
Restitution has to do with repentance of the heart, which may not be easy. The girl or the man that impregnated her may seek advice from a pastor or counselor and whatever he or she tells them, they can comply with. It is left to the man whether or not to accept the child. They can decide on what to do with the baby. If you keep hiding it, you have not restituted. And it is also a lesson for politicians that have surcharged the masses. They’ve built high scrappers with the public funds or taken Nigerian money to foreign countries. What stops a person that has repented to say ‘this is what I stole’? It is about returning what has been taken away, whether money or property. So, it is about confession of the wrong done and after that you don’t do it again.
‘Zacchaeus Paid Back Those He Cheated’
(Dr. Francis Wale Oke, Presiding Bishop, Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Ibadan/former National Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Southwest)
RESTITUTION is the restoration of what was wrongly taken or stolen from the rightful owner. It is taking something that does not belong to you. When God now convicts you, you said ‘you are wrong’. You do not only repent, but you also confess and then restore what you have taken wrongly as proof of genuine repentance. Restitution is in the Bible. When Zacchaeus met with Jesus, he told Him what happened, saying, “I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Concerning the boy and the girl, all they need to do is to genuinely repent. There is nothing you can do about the child that was born during their friendship days. You repent and you don’t go back to immoral acts again. In that kind of situation, you don’t need restitution. It is only when you take something that does not belong to you that you restitute. If you marry more than one wife and then repent, you can settle the other wives, give them money to take care of themselves and keep the first wife.
In the beginning, God made them male and female and if you want to please God, you cannot marry more than one wife. No man is entitled to marry more than one wife. So, restitution can take the form of money, property, land and so on.
‘Preachers Preach What The People Want To Hear’
(Rev. Musa Asake, CAN National General Secretary)
THE word Restitution is very biblical and it means both “restoring something to its original state” and “returning something to its rightful owner,” such as a public apology that leads to the restitution of a person’s honour and reputation. Restitution also has a specific legal meaning — an order given by a judge to a convicted criminal to make amends for the crime. For examples, judges often order people to pay restitution for the damage they caused.
The prime New Testament example of this is Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8. There, Zacchaeus, a tax collector turned believer, repented of his former life and gave half his possessions to the poor (those he formerly robbed) and paid back all he stole fourfold. This was going above and beyond what was required, often times, by the law. In Exodus 22 and Numbers 5, we find laws concerning restitution.
Sometimes, the offender is to simply replace what he took or destroyed. Other times, an extra cost was added to the value of the property as a kind of interest or restitution for the trouble of having to deal with lost, stolen, or damaged property.
All this points to the fact that in all things, we are the offending party but God is the offended one. We owe God for our sin and rebellion against Him. And the only thing that can compensate for our offence is our very lives, for the wages of sin is death.
A girl had a child for a man before he got repented; what happens to that child? It is very clear in the Bible as we read in 2Cor. 5:17 “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The old has gone, the new has come. The grace of God not only justifies but also makes a new creation, which results in a changed lifestyle (v.15). 5:18: Reconciliation involves a changed relationship because our trespasses are not counted against us (v.19). We are now to announce to others this message of God’s grace.
Here is the heart of the gospel: the sinless Saviour has taken our sins that we might have God’s righteousness. It is very clear that the child is legally theirs. Old things have passed away. The sin committed in the old life has been forgiven.
It is very sad that today in many of our churches, especially the new wave churches, the Bible is being fine-tuned to suit what the preacher wants the people to hear for personal and selfish reasons. In the mainstream or orthodox churches, we were used to hearing messages of conviction, but today we hear messages of convenience, which go along with prosperity messages that are being promoted today. The apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome told them that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. But I’m sad to say that with the way messages are being preached in some churches today, I make bold to say that perhaps the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is ashamed of us, because we promote prosperity messages more than the gospel message, which would have helped in depopulating hell.
‘Pastors Preach Prosperity, Ignore Salvation And Restitution Messages’
(Bishop Moses Adedipe, General Superintendent, The Universal Christian Missions International, Inc., Lagos)
RESTITUTION is very Biblical. When we are wrong and we are able to get ourselves to a stage of realisation, restitution comes after confession and forgiveness. If you offend somebody and you realise that you are wrong, you make amend. You are expected to talk to the person, confess the offence and then ask for forgiveness. There are others such as money and material things. You might have cheated somebody and for your repentance to be genuine you return whatever to the owner.
Restitution has several levels and it is advisable that those who have such challenges should seek counsel. If you marry more than one wife, the one that is legitimately married is your wife, the rest you can settle and let them go. But before sending them away, you have to let them understand your new life in Christ and why you are sending them away. You don’t just drive them without settling them properly, so that they can go and start a new life elsewhere.
Why you don’t hear many pastors preaching about restitution today is because of proliferation of churches. Many are not ready to learn today. They prefer the easy way out and that is why many pastors preach prosperity and ignore salvation message, holiness and righteousness.
In the case of the young man and girl, may be they were in school when it happened and they might not have understood what sexual relationship is all about. Now it depends on whether the parents of both have accepted the pregnancy. Biblically, she has to marry that man, but if the family of the boy refuses to accept the pregnancy, that is where the problem lies. It would require the understanding of both parents. But if she decides to marry another person, she must confess her past life to the new man and if he accepts the child, fine. They need to be open but if they hide it, one day the truth will come out, which will likely lead to separation. We handle cases based on individual challenges.
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