Friends, Beloved of God,
We are all fragile. We feel threatened and defensive when are confronted with our sin. Like Adam and Eve, we hide. We justify. We make excuses.
Lately, as white American Christians, we have been confronted with the grievous sin of racism—we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. As I pray the confession from home each Sunday, I wonder—what does it look like to be truly sorry and humbly repentant for what we have done and for what we have left undone?
As I ask myself this question, I’ve been thinking a lot about Zacchaeus.
We all know the story of Zacchaeus—the wee little man who climbed up in a sycamore tree.
Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector. He profited by participating in a system that allowed and encouraged him to take advantage of others.
BUT Zacchaeus met Jesus—and that encounter changed him.
After a meal with Jesus, Zacchaeus declared, “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Micah 6:8 asks us—What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God…
Sometimes I think we try to fulfill the command to “do justice” with a minimum amount of effort. But when Zacchaeus met Jesus, he didn’t do the minimum. First, Zacchaeus paid back four times what he had taken. While the law prescribes different amounts of restitution for different types of theft, this choice seems to match the restitution described in Exodus 24:1. But Zacchaeus didn’t stop there. He went beyond the law, giving half his possessions to the poor. He was so moved—so filled with joy—by Jesus’ love and kindness towards him, that he was overwhelmed with desire, not just to restore, but also to bless those he had harmed.
Like Zacchaeus, we have encountered Jesus. We have experienced his kindness and love. We share a meal with him every Sunday at the altar.
What does it look like for us to approach conversations about racial injustice with the same posture as Zacchaeus?
As we come into a greater understanding of the ways that we have benefited from others’ abuse, what would it look like for us to abandon ourselves to a creative and generous work of restoration?
I’m wrestling a lot with questions like these. I’m working hard to educate myself about racial injustices because I know that we can’t effectively restore if we don’t understand. I’m listening to Black voices. I’ve been talking with my family and friends about how to continue to engage this process in a long-term and sustainable way. My dear friend Kate and I started an Instagram account (@idannotatedbib) together this week to share resources that have helped us and to continue talking about race, the Imago Dei, and human dignity. It’s a start… and I know that there is still a long way to go.
Today, I just wanted to encourage you to press on and press in. Let’s enter this conversation from a posture of Christ-centered, restoration-seeking generosity.