“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a “sinner.”’
But 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 have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)
We called it the “gourmet shift.” I worked at a grocery store while in high school and on weekends often worked the third shift. There were few customers and little supervision. So when we took our breaks, we would just pull things off the shelves to eat. We were stealing from the store, but thought little of it.
When I went off to college, I was introduced to Jesus and began following Him. On a visit home one weekend several years later, I drove past the store at which I had worked years earlier and immediately thought of my habit of taking items off the shelves without paying for them. Honestly, I tried to put it out of my mind. “Ah, that was a long time ago, and I have been forgiven of all my past sins,” I rationalized. Months went by and I still couldn’t shake the conviction that I needed to confess to the manager of the store and repay the company. So one day I sat down and wrote a letter telling what I had done and, because I was now a follower of Jesus, that I wanted to make things right. I enclosed a check for what I guessed was the value of the items I had taken and mailed it off. I never heard back from the manager (he probably was shocked and didn’t know how to reply), but I immediately felt a great freedom in my spirit.
Coming to Jesus requires repentance, and that can sometimes mean going back and asking forgiveness and even making restitution to those we have treated badly. In my case and Zacchaeus’, it was stealing, but it could be a lot of other things including, cheating in school, treating a teacher with gross disrespect, bullying a classmate, or using someone for sexual pleasure. The willingness to humble ourselves before others and to admit our sins against them is a sign of true heart transformation and a powerful witness.
Today, go before the Lord and ask Him if there is anyone from whom you need to seek forgiveness and perhaps to whom to make restitution for your sins against them. It is a very difficult thing to do, but with salvation comes the need for repentance. And with repentance comes freedom from the past.
© Jim Musser 2012