I've been thinking about the word restoration a lot lately. It's a word that brings to mind healing, repair, making things right, and wholeness. As we pursue racial justice and reconciliation, what would it look like to put our focus on the idea of restoration?
The word restoration first jumped out at me during a sermon Pastor Scott Dudley preached on May 16. He said, "God's kind of justice is always about restoration, not retribution and revenge… restoration of what was lost or stolen or broken or hurt or wounded for individuals, but also for entire communities." What a beautiful way to think about justice!
I love the way John Perkins describes justice in his book Dream with Me: "Justice is any act of reconciliation that restores any part of God's creation back to its original intent, purpose, or image" (p.110). What does it mean to restore something? According to the dictionary, it includes bringing back to an original condition or a state of health, putting back to a former position or status, or giving back anything taken away or lost.
The idea of giving back anything taken away or lost is often referred to as reparations, which is a controversial subject in our society. This month, we're going to tackle that topic in a discussion of the book Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair by Duke Kwon and Gregory Thompson. One of the things I particularly like about their approach is that they frame reparations in terms of restoration: "Reparations is best understood as the deliberate repair of White supremacy's cultural theft through restitution (returning what one wrongfully took) and restoration (restoring the wronged to wholeness)" (p. 17). Kwon and Thompson provide lots of examples of how we can take personal steps in our own spheres of influence to bring restoration.
As I reflected more on the word restoration, I got curious about how it's used in the Bible, so I did a quick search. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of references to restoration. All through the Bible, God directly, or through his people, restores jobs, health, blessings, cities, land, and even life. One of my favorite descriptions of justice comes from Isaiah 58:6-7,12:
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
Jesus's miracles of healing are often described in terms of restoration, like in Matthew 12:13: "Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other." I love this picture of Jesus bringing wholeness and healing.
As summer comes to an end, and we return from vacations to our routines of work and school, let's keep our eyes open for opportunities for restoration. Where can we bring God's healing and wholeness; what can we repair; what can we restore to God's original intent?