Does anyone know what the bible has to say concerning reparation for past injustices?
@Mr.Horton Thanks for your question Could you provide some additional context? Do you mean past injustices by our ancestors or nation? Or do you mean past injustices within a group of friends? Or within a marriage?
Please provide context for the current discussions concerning past injustices by our ancestors.
Please exigent the following scripture:
And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15
@Mr.Horton What is the modern context in which you are imagining this verse being applied? This verse was specific to the Old Covenant between God and Israel and does not directly apply to Christians. It was given in another time and culture. Are you uncertain what it meant originally?
Well like @SeanO said its the old covenant and is no longer in effect. While it’s no longer in effect there are some things that we do take away from it. For example, when you steal from someone you replace what you stole or give it back. If you can’t give it back or replace it you give something of equal value. That’s what the Old testament law required. I believe this is the best way to do things today when it comes to something like stealing. There are other examples in America’s laws as well. Such as cancelation of debt after 7 yrs.
If this is about what’s going on in the US today while I would love for reparations to take place it’s simply impossible. No one can fully trace back their ancestors because of the slave trade as far as I know. Had they done this as soon as slavery was abolished then I would fully approve.
But since they didn’t all we can do is move forward and learn from past mistakes and take into account how we are to treat each other with love and respect as Jesus commanded his followers to do.
I don’t know much about what this reparations has to do in the USA, but here in South Africa it is a hot topic. So I am talking about our situation here. But I find myself in agreement with Luna. However, it must be borne in mind that as a ‘white’ I did benefit from apartheid. So it is easy for me to agree with Luna’s view of ‘let’s move forward.’
But is that ‘true’ according to Scripture?
I want to thank you for your response. Personally I have not made up my mind on the issue of who should be included for possible repayment. However ,there is enough evidence to prove the impact of slavery continues to this day from the past. And many whites are the beneficiary of it. When you say its impossible for reparations to take place, I wonder how you came to that conclusion without investigative study. John Conyers’s HR 40 is the vehicle for such a study. I often wonder how as Christians we take issue with reparations for Africans In American but were willing to pay for other disenfranchised ethic groups. As you pointed out, I believe we conveniently separate OLD/NEW Testament for issues WE personally believe in.
Well its as I said as far as I know, meaning I could be wrong, no one can really trace back their ancestry. How would you balance out how much a person would get? What if their ancestors were in slavery longer than someone else’s? How would you make sure someone wasn’t lying about their ancestry? Not all blacks who came to America were slaves. How would you trace slaves who were traded and adopted by other slaves? These are things I think would make it impossible. But I noted that I wouldn’t have a problem with reparations if they did sort all those things out. Just know its not just about getting a check. Its more so about acknowledging the truth of history and not avoiding it.
But as its shown in the bible I don’t think anyone conveniently separated anything. The bible is known for showing things done in covenants. The passage you quoted is from the Mosaic covenant which ended. We are in a new one with Christ.
My main focus isn’t that reparations take place but that Christ takes place more than anything. It doesn’t matter that the black community gets payment if Christ is not the center. There are broken homes that have lost the Christian values we once held close and you can see how that is killing our community. Throwing money at broken individuals will not fix whats currently going on. So while I’m all for reparations its not what will change a person’s heart or save their soul. In the end only Christ can do that and keep the cycle of dysfunction and brokenness from continuing.
You and I really don’t disagree on much. My statement concerning conveniently separating was really addressing someone else on the original string message. I do however disagree with …" all we can do is move forward and learn from past mistakes and take into account how we are to treat each other with love and respect as Jesus commanded his followers to do". The root word for reparation is “repair.” We as a people have been broken. America needs to be challenged by the Church of Jesus Christ to repair what it has broken. We can no longer afford to be silent and move forward.
One of Jesus’ first major speeches was on the Jubilee year. Jesus stood up and read,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61)
“The year of the Lord’s favor ” is a clear reference to the Reparations Laws the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 in the Hebrew Bible.
“When we turn to the Gospel, we see that Jesus is clear that reparations or restitution to those who have been exploited and rendered vulnerable is not optional but required. Consider Jesus’ encounter with Zaccheus in Luke 19,”
“Zaccheus is a tax collector who has participated in Roman imperial oppression against marginalized Jewish populations. Jesus sits with Zaccheus but is clear with Zaccheus on what his reparative response needed to be and that this reparative response as Zaccheus was tasked to do was not simply and only a political response but was more deeply a theological response,” “In his encounter with Zaccheus, I want to suggest that Jesus sets forth a reparations ethic …. Zaccheus is expected to give back that which he has stolen so that he can be reconciled with others and God. Reconciliation cannot occur until he has given back what he has stolen.” We do agree that Christ should be central to changing behavior and the heart, but let’s not mix in the conversation of individual immorality with corporate responsibility.
Good day Robert, when I read Isa 61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; [KJV[ It is the word “vengeance” that strikes me. Jesus does not include the “vengeance” part, He stops at the “,”. I wonder why.
Is Jesus referring to ‘grace’? If I recall correctly (and I may indeed be wrong), did not Philip Yancey in one of his books say something along the lines of ‘the Christians are the only religion that displays grace’?
I know that in our ‘denomination’ we are constantly reminded to show grace; and forgiveness. So what part has grace and forgiveness to play in reparations?
Hello, Robert @Mr.Horton! I truly appreciate this question about reparations you have brought up. I appreciate the sensitivity of this issue and have great compassion for those who feel hurt over past wrong, which brings me to my first thought in regard to moving forward.
While I understand where you are coming from, I do agree with Luna when she says that all we can do is move forward in the sense that we cannot live in the past and what happened in the past and hope to fix anything in the present that way. When you clarify that the root word for reparation is “repair,” that word does not say or mean the same thing as “repay.” I do not think it is biblical to make people who were not even born at the time of a wrong and did not make those wrong choices pay for the wrong. While someone who did the wrong should offer repayment, it isn’t biblical for the wronged to demand (as opposed to simply ask for) repayment when they themselves owed a debt to God they could not pay and were given mercy and grace in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. It must be pointed out that Jesus makes this unmistakably clear in Matthew 18:21-35.
In regard to the Jubilee year, in the Mosaic law, it had nothing to do with paying back for wrong-doing. In fact, it had everything to do with grace and release from service to a debt or servitude commitment. When Jesus quoted from Isaiah (@billbrander) and stopped just short of where the verse talks about vengeance, he was declaring his identity as the Messiah and also pointing to the role and purpose of his first coming. This declaration, along with riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, points to Jesus saying that at this time, he was here to proclaim news of grace and peace and to provide that which would set people free: his sacrifice. (As a side note, for those of you who do not know, at the time, when a king rode in on a white horse, he was coming to do battle. However, when a king rode in on a donkey, he is coming in peace.) The purpose of Jesus’ reading of Isaiah was not to declare that every person who had been wronged in the past was to be repaid and to start an earthly physical, social revolution… He was starting a revolution in the hearts of people that would secure spiritual freedom and healing that would manifest in social change to some degree on earth (this will never be fully realized on earth since evil is still present and even those who are Christians are still unfinished works and will be until we see Him face to face). No where in the passage does it point to people who wronged others in the past being required to pay for their past mistakes or the mistakes of their ancestors in the past. Later, when Jesus comes again, he will not be coming in peace, but to accomplish the wrath of the Lord on those who refuse to repent. There are other facets to the passage, too, and I could go on and on, but they really would not be beneficial to our purposes here.
Two things here:
Jesus is dealing with a wrong presently being done, not something that happened in the past. Furthermore, Jesus did not tell those Zacchaeus wronged to rise up and demand what they thought they rightfully deserved from Zacchaeus. Jesus didn’t go to everyone who had ever wronged someone and tell them they needed to make reparation for people they wronged in the past. So, how can we apply this to today’s situation? First, like Luna said, acknowledging the past without avoiding it and learning from it is necessary. Second, we need to look at and think through that which we think may be remaining harmful consequences from our past mistakes and work together to try to change them. We aren’t going to get anywhere by dwelling on what happened hundreds of years ago. We need to acknowledge that things have indeed changed. Ethnic slavery is no longer a problem in the US today, but there are, for example, policies in place in some social structures that are problems, and that is what we need to focus on changing and then repairing and making reparations for the damage that has been done with those.
We really cannot separate individual immorality with corporate responsibility when we are talking about a need for repairing brokenness. Any corporation or organization is made up of individuals, and so it is the states of the hearts of individuals that determine the direction of the corporate entity. Therefore, the morality/immorality of individuals in how they handle whatever attempts at repair are made has everything to do with whether or not certain attempts will have the effects necessary to help heal the brokenness of the nation. Added to this, to attempt to exact payment from a corporate entity for mistakes made hundreds of years ago (rather than addressing the mistakes and issues being made today, whether they have evolved from previous mistakes or not) is to hold a group of individuals responsible for mistakes and choices they didn’t make. In the Old Testament, God makes it clear that He does not hold the children accountable for the sins of the parents. Individual morality and corporate responsibility are, indeed, connected both biblically and logically, and so both must be addressed here.
That being said, I do think that we need to work very hard at listening to others about how they feel wronged and being sensitive and compassionate towards that and working to see if there is anything we can do to help. While I don’t believe reparations should be made for mistakes made by others hundreds of years ago, I think what hurts the most sometimes is when it feels as if people are coldly dismissing the wrongs that were done. So, acknowledging the past and admitting how terrible it was and listening to how people feel about it is important in that regard, along with being willing to work with those hurting to identify and change any surviving effects of those past wrongs. It is imperative that we not dismiss people’s feelings about these things simply because we may disagree with how it should be handled. We need to acknowledge where we are allowing wrong to prevail and work hard towards change and towards providing reparations for those who are affected by those present wrongs.
Just some thoughts that I have, for what they are worth…
Thank for your input into this delicate conversation. You seem to be emphatic to the sensitive issue of reparations and I appreciate your insights.
Your statement "we cannot live in the past and what happened in the past and hope to fix anything in the present ", indicates to me a misunderstanding of the issue. It is not about living in the past. It is about repentance, and Repentance is not just about verbal apologies or contrition of the past it is about setting something wrong right.
Repentance involves restitution and repair, which includes some sort of material repair. Please see below definition:
**reparation **. If you guessed that reparation is related to the word repair, you were right. Both come from the Latin word meaning “to restore.” … The word almost always has legal or political connotations, and it conveys the sense of restitution — often expressed in money — for wrongdoing.
Please read : Leviticus 5:16; 6:5 Num 5:7 2; kings 8:6; Prov 6:31; Ezekiel 33:15; 1Kings 20:34;
I’m sure you will say that these scriptures fall under the old covenant. But, as Luna has stated, “While it’s no longer in effect there are some things that we do take away from it. For example, when you steal from someone you replace what you stole or give it back. If you can’t give it back or replace it you give something of equal value. That’s what the Old Testament law required. I believe this is the best way to do things today when it comes to something like stealing. There are other examples in America’s laws as well. Such as cancelation of debt after 7 yrs.”
I would suggest you read "The case for reparations.
While it may not change your opinion you will at least know that he is not just referring to past injustices.
Regarding Jubilee year, you say "it had nothing to do with paying back for wrong-doing. In fact, it had everything to do with grace and release from service to a debtor “servitude commitment”. You make slavery sound like it was a low wage job they interviewed for and accepted.
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you, and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
— [Leviticus 25:10]
Biblical scholars once argued that the Jubilee was an obvious development of the Sabbatical year. Rather than waiting for the 50th or 49th year, the [Deuteronomic Code] requires that Hebrew slaves be “liberated” during their 7th year of service., which some textual scholars also regard as earlier than the Holiness Code, refers to a year of liberty , during which property is returned to the original owner (or their heirs).
My statement “but let’s not mix in the conversation of individual immorality with corporate responsibility”. Was in response to Luna.
“My main focus isn’t that reparations take place but that Christ takes place more than anything”. There are broken homes that have lost the Christian values we once held close and you can see how that is killing our community. Throwing money at broken individuals will not fix what’s currently going on. So while I’m all for reparations it’s not what will change a person’s heart or save their soul".
That is a statement often utilized to make a point about individual Christian responsibility. We both know what is required in “our community” concerning individual responsibility. That is not the subject of the post. The post is about corporate responsibility.
Again thank you for your reply. I must say you do have some points I had to go to my bible training and think about.
The scriptures I provided earlier in the post was not at all exhaustive on the subject. As you can imagine it does take a lot of time replying to post such as this, I am sorry for the delay.
@Mr.Horton. I don’t say it aloud too often because it is such a ‘hot’ topic in my community and family. As a descendant of African slaves, American Indians, and French plantation owners the idea of reparations seems a wonderful proposition. However, I think its an attempt to correct wrongs that do not find their origins in race, culture, gender, or age. It feels shortsighted and insoluble. A natural remedy for a spiritual problem.
At this late stage in American history, monetary reparations would decimate the very society seeking to move forward in fairness to all its members. It would solve nothing and erroneously award people who have not endured the historical egregious behavior. We will loop ourselves into an unending cycle of social repentance that never provides a solution.
True reparation is realized when we all live with caution and care for one another. That’s agape love, it is priceless and cannot be socially engineered. Social reparations only illuminate the wrong and attempts to translate the job of redemption into a monetary value. It does not work if for no other reason than it can not produce the intended goal of forgiveness. And without forgiveness asked and given; there will be no healing. It will not work to repair historical wrongdoings, it does not work when attempting to repair current or relational errors either.
Repentance is a “stand-alone” value not dependant upon monies. Forgiveness is also a “stand-alone” value not dependant upon monies. Repairing our societies will take GOD. Every other effort often amounts to forcing the infection into another weak part of the social body. Without the guidance of GOD where we go, there we are. With GOD we will not live at a distance from our sins. We will not live in perpetual repair mode.
Is that always true? What about the thief on the cross? He was unable to do anything about his sin (Luk.23:41). And I assume that his crime/sin hurt people?
Just a thought.
I just want to thank all you are participating in this dialog. I am learning a great deal. I am blessed by this.
I echo your input Jennifer.
This is a very important topic in South Africa, and like you I really appreciate what I am read here.
That link to a long article at the ‘atlantic’ was an eye opener too.
Thank you to all