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Recent social media talk suggests that REPARATIONS for American slavery is an up and coming conversation for evangelicals. May I offer one recommendation for the topic?
As you make your case, also affirm Christian freedom and the ability of faithful Christians to disagree with one another. Avoid the innuendo of excommunication—“They’re losing the gospel!”—toward those on the “other side.”
Pro-reparationists could say, “You don’t care about justice. Are you even justified?” You make it a litmus test of repentance.
Anti-reparationists could say, “You’re asking for restitution from one person for another’s person’s sin. Do you not believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s work?” You make it a litmus test of orthodoxy.
The bell rings, and two boxers charge out of their corners, each side using language and a tone that implies the need to dis-fellowship those who disagree.
But what if, instead, the pro-reps acknowledged that Christians can share the same concern for justice yet make different TACTICAL judgments for addressing injustice.
What if the anti-reps acknowledged Christians can share the same theology yet make different tactical judgments in matters of CIVIC justice?
Paul tells us to teach the Bible “with great patience” (2 Tim 4:2). How much more should we teach our judgments concerning the public policy and civic applications of Scripture with great patience.
Maybe you do NOT think this is an area of Christian freedom. You think your judgment on this civic matter is THE Christian position. It’s as good as Bible and SHOULD be a test of repentance or orthodoxy, and a criterion for admission to the Lord’s Table.
Very well. I’d still ask you to recognize the difficulty of this issue.
To the pro-reps, yes, the principle of restitution is biblical, as w/Zacchaeus. But here we’re not talking direct restitution, but indirect—someone else was the slave; someone else was the slave master. Show patience and charity as people struggle to see what you see.
To the anti-reps, yes, Christ’s forgiveness is complete. But sometimes “this world” consequences remain for crimes rendered; and those consequences must be addressed in the civic sphere. Show patience and charity as people struggle to see what you see.
Due to such complexities, I presently believe this issue falls inside the circle of Christian freedom. Meaning: I don’t think we should treat it as a litmus test for repentance or orthodoxy and therefore as a criterion for admission to the Lord’s Table.
It’s not a “straight line” issue (like abortion or segregation), but a “jagged line” one (like health care, immigration, welfare policy). Jagged line doesn’t mean relative or unimportant. It means there’s a jagged line between Bible and policy. And none of us speak as apostles.
If we start by acknowledging Christian liberty, we just might lower the temperature and have a real and earnest conversation, one where we can better discern the demands of justice and orthodoxy together.
Friends, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how to maturely and lovingly disagree with one another, even strongly, and yet maintain the spirit of unity and bond of peace. Can we?
Christian maturity, often, looks like: “I have a strong opinion. I’m going to try to persuade you. But if you disagree in the end, I’ll still embrace you as a Christian.” We do this with credo vs paedo baptism, for instance. And that’s clearer biblically. Can we do the same here?
"Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him" (Rom. 14:3).
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