Editor’s Note: Over the last two weeks, we are featuring several messages from Cornerstone University’s undergrad chapel, which engage the topics of justice, race, reconciliation and love (listen to all CU chapel messages here). Today’s message is by Christina Edmondson, Dean of Intercultural Student Development at Calvin College. With each message, we’ve provided a “Talking Points Takeaway” as a point of reflection as we prepare for the April 26 Talking Points conference on Justice + Unity: Toward the Healing of a Fractured Church. Register today to attend the conference.
Talking Points Takeaway: If some people aren’t happy when we receive grace from God, God’s grace does not excuse us from attending to their grumbling.
Christina Edmondson is a featured speaker at the upcoming Talking Points conference on April 26 on Justice + Unity. In February, she gave a stirring talk on Zacchaeus and restorative justice.
In the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus, we typically pay attention to the character of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ mystifying interaction and spectacular extension of grace to him. But we do not often consider how the news of Jesus’ extension of grace would affect those whom Zacchaeus had been exploiting. The Scripture says that people grumbled (Luke 19:7) at the sight of Jesus’ grace to him. For too long Zacchaeus had maintained the status quo to his own profit and their expense. And Jesus comes along and gives him opportunity for repentance. This is a hard pill for them to swallow.
So, if there are people that grumble when we receive grace— or question God’s wisdom and goodness as a result— this may be an indication that we have restitution to make. When we receive grace, we need to legitimize and attend to the people that aren’t too happy about it, even if their grumbling is not the right response. So while Jesus’ grace is scandalous and extends to sinful people, those who receive it cannot write off their responsibility to make restitution.
As Edmondson points out, while Zacchaeus’ act of repentance is toward God, his restitution comes to his neighbors (by restoring four-fold those whom he has defrauded).
Today, there may be racial groups that grumble when God grants salvation to other racial groups who benefit from unjust systems. Whites have benefitted from systems that oppress or keep blacks out for centuries. Because of the social currency we risk losing, it’s easy to ignore our neighbor’s grumbling. We must ask whether there is legitimate reason for our neighbor’s grumbling. Because, as Edmondson identifies, Jesus’ grace also insults our in-group allegiances. We cannot remain allegiant to Jesus when we have knowledge of our own injustice toward others.
Listen to the whole sermon here.