Dishing It Out

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, 1 Samuel 6:1-16, Acts 5:27-42, Luke 21:37-22:13


In some cultures it’s considered bad form to return a dish empty. Say your neighbor prepares a plate of food for you when you aren’t feeling well. You might bake some nice cookies to load the plate before you give it back. That extra touch shows your gratitude.

When the Philistines finally realized they needed to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, their priests and diviners warned them not to send it back empty. To do so would show a lack of respect for the great power the Lord had demonstrated. It sounds a little disgusting, but the Philistines fashioned ten gold tumors and ten gold mice to accompany the Ark. These objects symbolized the plagues the Lord had set upon them.

Now they could have just dropped the Ark at the border and run, but that would not have shown they had learned and grown in their understanding of the relationship through the hardships that damaged it. That’s kind of the difference between making an apology and making amends. An apology requires a certain sincerity and an admission of wrongdoing, and is often adequate, but it’s like returning the plate empty: your bases are covered and you’re under no further obligation, but it’s the bare minimum. Amends are the cookies on the plate. They show that you value the relationship enough to put in the extra effort; that you appreciate the circumstances which have made them necessary. Most importantly, amends are not about you or soothing your guilt or grief, but about letting the other party know you are invested enough to genuinely try.

Sometimes relationships can’t be salvaged. Apologies aren’t always accepted. Amends aren’t always welcomed. Such rejection can be hurtful and bewildering, but if we simply recycle that pain as blame or anger, we’re back at square one. The Philistines had no guarantee the Lord would be moved by their odd golden ornaments. Before we offer amends, we should be resigned to be at peace regardless of the outcome, because we have done what we can. Bake the cookies, and leave the rest to God.

Comfort: You are only responsible for what you can do.

Challenge: You are responsible to do what you can.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt (Psalm 123:3).

Discussion: Has anyone ever made amends to you?

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