Key verse Leviticus 6:5
Big idea: For our relationships to be whole, we must make peace with God and one another.
If there is one thing that human beings are good at, it is going to extremes. Some people want to make their sin entirely about God, where we want to go to God for forgiveness and leave people to think what they want. Others want to make other people the only interested party in our sin, worrying about making amends but treating our religious life as completely separate. The Bible does not tolerate those kinds of divides, as if our work life happens in one part of our identity, our family life in one, and our spiritual life in yet another. Every sin against another person is also a sin against God (Psalm 51:4), who made us and the person we have harmed, so it is necessary to seek God's forgiveness. But it is not enough to ask God for forgiveness. The Law also requires restitution.
In a variety of crimes, what was stolen or lost needed to be replaced, plus an additional 20% penalty. This was to be done in the same day that the sacrifice was made: forgiveness from God and peace with neighbor were not to be drastically separated. Refusing to make restitution, when it is possible, is evidence of an unrepentant heart.
This is not just an Old Testament principle. Jesus made the same point in Matthew 5:22-23: "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Even if you were in the act of giving a gift on the altar and were in Jerusalem, it was necessary to make the trip back home, be reconciled to your brother, and then offer your worship to God. A major component of holiness is wholeness: being who God intended for us to be in relationship with Him and each other. These two parts: love of God and love of His children are inseparable.
Discussion idea: When David murdered Uriah the Hittite to cover up his sin, he prayed in Psalm 51 that He had sinned against God, and God only. How should that be understood? How does that affect the way we see our sins against others?
Prayer focus: Pray for a relationship that needs to be restored, and for God's help in seeing that as part of your worship.
Key Verse: James 2:11
Big Idea: A life of wisdom cannot be taken in bits and pieces.
Imagine a long, strong iron chain. It can lift tremendous weights and remain as strong as it has always been. Imagine now that someone has come with a file and weakened the chain. How many links must be broken until the chain is broken? Obviously just one. James teaches us that God's Law is the same way. We can rightly say that murder is worse than lying and that in the chain of a moral life, murder is a larger, heavier link. But when either is broken, the whole Law is broken. Disobedience in one area of life is not an isolated problem, but one aspect of the basic sin of rebellion. The same God gave every command, and to disobey one is less about disobeying the command than it is about disobeying God. God is not a respecter of persons: one person who rebels in something scandalous and dramatic is not any less redeemable by God than the one who sinned by gossip and envy. Indeed, even the one who shows favoritism to the rich, the powerful, or the socially acceptable sinners has by their partiality shattered the whole law. We cannot follow God in one area of life when we are willfully disobedient in another.
If all sin is an expression of disobedience, then all righteousness can also be understood as diverse aspects of one thing: love (Galatians 5:14). Love is the distinguishing mark of a person who has been truly saved. Even the demons recognize God mentally, but to recognize Him in our hearts is to be changed. We need the same kind of faith that led Abraham to offer up Isaac, trusting that God would provide Himself a lamb. That’s the kind of faith that led Rahab to show hospitality to the spies and trust that God would use His people to show hospitality to her. The kind of faith that is alive shows itself in a holistic love. To live a real life of wisdom, we must let love for God and our neighbor shine through in every area of life.
Discussion Idea: Where are you tempted to show favoritism instead of godly love? How can you love someone that might seem unlovable in the next week?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the single-mindedness to love God with your whole heart.