By Vitus Adebija
The dictionary defines the word ‘Restitution’ as the process of compensating for losses incurred; the act of making good or compensating for loss or injury or a wrong; a return or restoration to a previous condition or position. It entails righting the wrong committed against a neighbour or a fellow. Other terms like: ‘recompense’ or ‘reparation’ or ‘indemnification’ are synonyms readily available for restitution. An in-depth understanding of this principle of restitution shows that it is a necessary follow up to a genuine repentance and subsequent forgiveness (Lev. 5: 21-26; Gen. 20: 1-18).
To seek forgiveness without restituting is like stepping on the toes of a fellow and asking for his or her forgiveness yet not removing your foot on the toes you are mercilessly marching on. For a genuine repentance to be attained and perfect harmony reached between the offender and the person offended, there is the need for restitution to naturally take place as a way of righting the wrong, or repairing what has been spoilt.
I have heard from discussions with friends who have had to return stolen items to friends or colleagues they had stolen from while they were still in the world of sin. Stories abound of people returning certificates they had acquired through malpractices or other forms of falsehood and beginning a new to acquiring such certificates in honest ways. Such actions as mentioned above constitute restitution! Painful as the practice is, restitution cannot be divorced from true repentance and ultimate forgiveness of the offender.
To many, such acts of restitution are tantamount to foolishness or outright madness: exposing oneself to ridicule. But to a true Christian, it is righting the wrong and paving way for genuine forgiveness from the aggrieved neighbour and eventually from God! To do otherwise by holding to the stolen item or money or enjoying the benefits accruing from the false certificate without restitution, is like marching on the toes of a fellow and asking for his or her forgiveness, yet maintaining the excruciating pains of your leg on the hurtful toes of your neighbour! To withhold the stolen property and yet believe that you have been forgiven is a false way of acquiring wealth as the injured party has not been atoned and God does not condone cheating in whatever guise.
The act of restitution is beautifully demonstrated by Zacchaeus, the diminutive rich senior tax-collector who having encountered Jesus Christ in the gospel of Luke: 19:1-10, stood his ground against the Jews who complained against Jesus Christ extending salvation to him. He told Jesus Christ that he would not only give to the poor half of his property but that he will pay back four times the amount to whoever he had cheated! And for this singular spectacular act, Jesus said to Zacchaeus: “Today, salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
Beautiful as this virtue of restitution is, it is fast fading away in our world; many of us acquire our wealth through falsehoods by cheating on others, looting the treasure of the people, government, religious bodies etc or even using certificates obtained through various dubious ways and enjoying the benefits got through them without restituting, yet claiming to be forgiven and therefore at right with our God! How true these claims of ours are, is an answer gnawing each ones conscience right now! I am sure, anytime such people remember how they had acquired such wealth falsely, their hearts usually miss a little and they suffer some guilt. This is a confirmation that the heart is an open sore which only truth or sincerity heals.
If we cultivate this act of restitution in our daily dealings with our neighbours, it will go a long way to reducing the great stealing, pilfering and cheating going on in our societies and it will also reduce drastically the sufferings and pains inflicted on others through our acts of oppression and injustice!
Let us bear in mind always that it is only the pure of hearts and the clean of hands that can stand before God (Psalm 24:3-6; Psalm 15: 1-5); let us know too that God cannot be mocked! He knows those who truly serve Him. May the Lord bless His word in our hearts and assist us in our life sojourn, for without Him, we can do nothing!