“The time has come,” he said.
“The kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”
Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.
A life of prayer includes acts of repentance and making amends. To repent is to feel so much sorrow for the pain we have caused others that we commit ourselves to change for the better. To repent is to turn around. To go the other way. To change.
Honesty with ourselves and God, taking inventory, making confession and experiencing brokenness all lead to repentance. They all lead us to make different choices. They lead us to make amends for the wrongs we have done and the hurt we have caused. The goal is to exhibit real changes in our behavior, so that our destructive, hurtful choices are exchanged for life giving, healing choices.
But making changes in our behavior is not easy. It is not something that we can simple will ourselves to do. True repentance and change comes as we surrender our lives and wills to God’s loving care and allow God to change us daily.
When Jesus calls us to repentance, he says two things. First he tells us that the kingdom of God is near. Then he calls us to believe this good news. Both of these things are directly related to acts of repentance and making amends.
What does it mean that the kingdom of God is near? How is this good news? And how does this bring repentance and change to our lives? Jesus is saying that God is with us. God is near. God, who is love, God who loves us, God who is our Maker and Healer, is with us.
Zacchaeus was a man who robbed from other people as he collected taxes for the Roman government. Not only did he collect taxes, but he collected enough extra to make himself a wealthy man. All this changed after Jesus spent some time at Zacchaeus’ house. Zcchaeus’ encounter with Jesus allowed Zacchaeus to experience personally the God who is with us and loves us. As a result, Zacchaeus repented and made amends, restoring what he had taken from others.
Remembering that we are loved, remembering who God is, remembering that God is with us, remembering that God calls us to live in love—this is the good news Jesus calls us to. The living, active truth of these realities is what gives us the power to repent, change our ways and make amends.
Repentance and making amends are prayer.
When I realize the ways in which
I have brought pain to others
through my selfishness, my pride,
my greed, my self protection,
my heart is broken in sorrow.
I repent. I turn around.
I seek, with your guidance,
to make amends to those I have hurt.
I know, God, that the kind of change I need to make
can only come by your healing power.
So I give myself again today to you.
Give me the courage, humility and honesty I need
to make amends to those I have harmed.
As you sit in quiet, ask God to show you how you need to repent and change. Ask God to show you what amends you need to make to people you have wronged. Invite God to do this work in you and through you, as you surrender your life and will to God’s loving care.
Keep in mind that the amends you need to make may include a conversation with the person you have harmed, inviting them to express the pain for which you are responsible. In this conversation your part is to acknowledge the pain you caused without asking for forgiveness and without offering excuses or pointing out their faults.
Keep in mind, as well. that making amends might also include the prayer of daily asking for God’s help to live in love toward the person(s) you have harmed.
Ask God to guide you to a pastor, friend, sponsor or counselor who can offer you wisdom as you seek to change and to make amends.