A few days ago, I got a message from an old friend from college. Well, “friend” may not exactly be the correct word for us back then but we knew each other. She and I got to know the most vicious sides of each other. I had placed our dispute in the back of my mind, never to think of it again…until I got the call.
I didn’t recognize her picture on the Internet when she “friended” me. But as I tend to do, I accepted request thinking this could be another person to witness to one day. Then I noticed a message from her. The subject was entitled: From An Old Frienemy. I am too curious for words sometimes, so I read it. She briefly re-introduced herself and reminded me of the feud. My mind traveled back to a place long forgotten. A place I’d rather forget. A place that I had been ashamed to say I’d been. Nevertheless, as the memories resurfaced, I remembered the things she and I said and did to each other. I thought how messed up and wicked I must have been to have participated in such a pointless attempt to harm another human being. I also remembered that her efforts to inflict pain on me were just as merciless. But I could not concentrate on what had been done to me. I immediately typed the most heartfelt apology I could think of. I thought this was what she wanted or needed from me. I was happy to give it. In my apology, I gave recognition to the mistake I had made in regards to her and our feud. I also offered a way to make things right.
Make things right?
I shared my testimony with her as briefly as possible and offered to call her and talk with her. She accepted and insisted on calling me.
I waited for the call for a few hours. Then the phone rang. I greeted her with a virtual hug. Admittedly, I expected a cold shoulder and dead silence as I went into detail with my testimony. I didn’t get it. Instead, this young lady blurted out an apology to me! She began to spill her regrets and pleas for forgiveness as if she were begging for her very life. I was confused but I allowed her to finish. When she did, I had to ask.
“Why find me now after all of this time? Haven’t you gotten over it?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve been through a lot in my life, most of it my own doing. But I am trying to make up for the wrong I’ve done.”
I had a feeling that I knew where this was going. I knew where her motivation had come from—someone just as lost as she was.
“Yeah girl! I’m changing my life. I’ve decided to get saved and live for Jesus. I’m doing all I can to get right with Him.”
And at that moment, I wanted to hug her. I quietly thanked God for the opportunity. This woman had placed herself right into my path. Hallelujah!
“So, you are trying to fix all of your wrong so that you can start over,” I asked.
“That’s right! God has given me another chance. I won’t blow it this time!”
I smiled. “Sounds like a twelve step program.”
“I know and I am happy to do it. It is an honor to do it.”
“Could you do me a small favor,” I asked. “I have my Bible right here. Could you show me where these twelve steps are?”
I continued. “I’ve just never seen it. I haven’t seen anything in our present epistles that say we have to make amends with anyone either. Do you mind sharing your knowledge with me?”
Her voice tensed. “Are you making fun of me?”
“No, of course not! I am sorry. It’s just that I know what you’re trying to do and your heart is in the right place, I can tell. But did you know that you can never make up for your sin? Did you know that when Jesus died on the cross, He made up for everything you and I and everyone has ever done? Will ever do?”
She gave me a careful “yes”.
“Did you know that you don’t have to do what you’re doing to be saved?”
She laughed a little. “Do you read your Bible?”
“Yes I do.”
She then paraphrased Acts 3:19. “The Bible says in Acts to change your hearts and your lives and come back to God and He will save you.”
Now my teeth clenched. I wanted to scream first at these parasite translators and then at whomever placed this false information in her head.
I didn’t want to confuse her. I wanted to give her the gospel simply so that she would understand and maybe study on her own. So, I quoted my favorite verse, the one that saved me and I know so many others.
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
“This passage says we’re saved by grace and not by works that we do. Why would the Lord want to say two different things to us?”
“He’s not,” she said. “Let me read that verse.”
While she looked it up in her Bible, I prepared another verse for her.
“In Hebrews,” I began after finding one she could not dispute. “The Bible says if you buy a Hebrew, he should work 7 years and then go free. Have you ever bought a Hebrew?”
She laughed. “No! That is the Old Testament. Things were different back then.”
I gave her that and moved on the the New Testament.
“In Luke Jesus said, sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow Me. You want to follow Jesus. Have you sold everything yet?”
She continued to chuckle. “It won’t be much! But Jesus was talking to his disciples, not me.”
“Ah, so you acknowledge that different parts of the Bible address different people?”
“I guess so, yes it does. We couldn’t possibly follow the Old Testament diet or sell all of our stuff, we have to live.”
“Right! So, why can’t you see that Acts 3:19 is not written to you either? Ephesians, however is written just to you.”
She sighed. “But…God can’t use us if we’re sinful. We have to clean ourselves up.”
“God can’t use you if you don’t trust Him. The Lord already died on the cross for you. He already became a curse for you. All He asks is that you trust in that! Acts 3 is not written to us. It was written to a people who still needed to law, the children of Israel, the sons of Jacob. Not the Gentiles,us because we are not Israel.”
Galations 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
“We will always have sin. We can’t help it. It comes with the territory. That’s why the Lord took up the cross and gave us His grace. He knows we can’t do it for ourselves. So He did it for us. We just trust that the debt has been paid and share the good news with others.”
“I hear what you’re saying. I just feel like I need to do something.”
“That’s because religion still has you. I’ve been there. I wasn’t saved yet either. Once you are saved, you will not feel the need to do something to be saved or right with God. You’ll believe that it’s paid in full.”
We chatted for a while longer about our children and careers. I believe she saw the change in me. I saw a change in her too but not quite the one I hope to see soon. We agreed to stay in touch. I offered to help her study. I hope that she continues to read and question the contradictions in the verses. Then my friend will see that in this day and time (dispensation) making amends with your past will do nothing for you. I hope that she will see that just being able to trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ is all she needs. Afterall, that kind of faith is no small accomplishment. Amen?
Grace and peace. Blessings and love.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: