Making amends is an important part of recovery and God’s peacemaking process. It involves engaging those you have hurt to do your part to repair the damage of your sin. A biblical amends process makes no excuse for your sin and carries no expectation of receiving any good in return from those you have hurt.
But what do you do when a face-to-face amends meeting is not possible, or when it may cause more harm than good? It might be that the person you need to make amends with has passed away, or you don’t know how to contact them. Or perhaps you do know how to contact them, but you’re not sure if it would be helpful or safe to meet. In such cases, consider writing a letter instead.
Letters can be useful tools when making amends. They can help you heal, by putting into words the things you would say to someone if they were still around. If it is possible to meet with them, or there is even a chance it might be possible someday, writing a letter allows you to organize your thoughts before having a face-to-face meeting. Sending a letter can be a safe way to contact someone if you are unsure of their availability, or if a meeting could potentially cause greater damage.
So what does an amends letter look like? Below is one example of an amends letter from a dad to his child, who was aborted.
This is your dad. Until recently, I would not acknowledge that I had lost a child. But today, I need to be honest. My sin contributed to the loss of your life. When your mother told me she was pregnant, we were starting college. We were not married. We were terrified. I was selfish. I did not want to give up my life for anyone. I told her, “I will support your decision, but I cannot be a dad now.” Then, I stopped talking to her. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to be alone at that time. A week later, she told me that our problem was taken care of—she had aborted you. Initially, I felt relief, but then I could not forget you. Relief was replaced by guilt, then shame, then emptiness. Soon our relationship ended. I realize now you were not the problem to be taken care of—you were our child who we did not care for. My sin and selfish plans for life were my real problems. I was supposed to protect and provide for you. It was my job to care and be a voice for you. But, I loved me more than you, God, or your mom. I was wrong. Over time, my emptiness grew. I tried to fill the void with everything until I finally broke. That’s when our Heavenly Father showed up to take care of my problem. He showed me that He loved me despite my sin. His Son laid down His life to pay for the sin that wrecked my life and yours. When I accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, I accepted God’s forgiveness for my role in your death and God began to heal me. I wish I could say this to you face-to-face, but a letter is the best I can do. Will you forgive me too? I cannot repay you, but I can begin to honor your life. Until now, you have not had a name, a dad, or anyone other than God to love you and say that you matter. But, today I am naming you David. It means “beloved.” I will not be silent about you anymore, David. Your dad will tell the story of your short life, my sin, and God’s grace. I pray that God uses your life to protect others, to offer hope, to bring healing and to reveal His love and mercy. Your life matters. I love you. You will always be my son.
Obviously, if the person you need to make amends with is deceased or you don’t know how to contact them, you would not be able to send the letter; it is written for your own benefit. But what if the person is available, but you’re not sure about whether it would be a good idea to contact them? In those cases, you should seek wise counsel from other people you trust and decide together if it makes sense to send the letter, wait for an opportunity to meet with them in person, or just not contact them at all. Your guiding principle in making amends should be love, because we are called to “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). With counsel from others, you can decide what the most loving course of action would be.
If you would like more examples of how making biblical amends can change your life, watch Melody's story on re:generation’s Step 9 page.