But repentance is not enough. The other biblical narrative that comes to mind is the story of a tax collector in Jericho. Zacchaeus was a collaborator with the occupying Roman authority, and by adding his own extortionary fees, he plundered the wealth of his neighbors and enriched himself. Jesus encountered him and shocked the crowd by going to his home. Salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus on that day. He proclaimed, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will give back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
Zacchaeus had not personally designed the unjust system of Roman taxation. But he had not denounced it either; he had participated in it and profited from it. So Zacchaeus did not merely repent of his ways; he made restitution. He set up what we might call a “Zacchaeus fund” in order to restore what belonged to his neighbors. Are we willing to do the same? Black lives matter. They matter so much that Jesus sacrificed everything for them. Are we willing to sacrifice as well?
Perhaps the country is not ready to make reparations. But the history of racial injustice demands personal and corporate response. Perhaps the church can lead the way in biblical restitution. I am aware of one “Zacchaeus fund” in Atlanta, where Christians who believe that African Americans have been subjected to four centuries of injustice and plunder are beginning to do their humble part to make it right. A majority-black committee assigns the funds to support rising black leaders in the church and in the marketplace. It will not be enough, but it will be something. What if there were Zacchaeus funds in every city and believers gave sacrificially, so our brothers and sisters could be restored and so our neighbors could see once again the Christlike love that overcame the world?