Reconciliation is important. It helps us overcome our division. It brings us into closer relationship with one another and ushers mutual forgiveness. It helps us unite as the body of Christ. Indeed, scripture says "all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."
But is it all that God would have for us?
Reconciliation without restoration is meaningless. How can white folk say 'I am reconciled to you' while we perpetuate the injustice that divided us? How can we call ourselves reconciled when we continue to benefit from disparity?
Like the crowd on Palm Sunday, we get excited about the arrival of our deliverance. We think there will be an easy resolution to all our problems. We like the idea that Love will save the day. But only if it is on our terms; only if we keep it light and cheery. But Jesus knew that before we get to Easter Sunday, we must first face the stark realities of Good Friday.
Like Zacchaeus, we must go beyond what the law requires, sacrificially living into the change we want to see in the relationship. If the law requires tolerance, we must give affirmation. Where it prohibits discrimination, we must deliver promotion and equity. Where it fails to protect, we must offer our own resources as remedy.
Can we challenge ourselves beyond our earthly desire for self-preservation? What would sacrificial, radical restitution look like in seeking out racial redemption? What would it mean with regard to land stolen, repayment promised, votes blocked, wages withheld? All ill-gotten investments that continue to pay out rich dividends for those on the winning side. Where the law required 20% interest after wrongdoing, Zacchaeus gave 400%. Not as a means of buying his forgiveness, but as a response to the restoration that he experienced in Christ.
How can we say we are reconciled while mired in the inequity that has resulted from our brokenness? How can we ask that it 'all be put in the past', when we will not remedy the consequences we live with today? Have we not been the beneficiaries of even greater restitution, in Christ's salvation through the cross?
We like reconciliation. We want to love each other and to be happy together. We want to 'all just get along.' White folk in particular like to be quick in calling for reconciliation.
There is a place for reconciliation. It helps us forgive one another and to remember Christ's forgiveness of us. It is the symbol of hope for our redeemed racial identities with each other. Sometimes it's all we can cling to when the restoration of our broken relationships seems hopeless.
But there can never be true reconciliation while there is still inequality and injustice. Words and emotions without actions to undergird them remain hollow. Reconciliatory proclamations ring false when we fail to even acknowledge the scope of our wrongdoing and divide.
Therefore, to even begin the process, we must honestly face the realities of how we have benefited from a racialized society. This means taking responsibility for our continuing role in racial injustice today. It means listening when wronged parties are angry, and not becoming indignant at their grievances. Reconciliation without justice is not possible (Christ still died on the cross for us, after all). It is our responsibility to take deliberate steps towards reversing the tremendous imbalance that has accumulated.