Restitution has a bad rap. I watched someone’s shoulders hang when I mentioned the word again recently. In a workshop I ran years ago participants used the word retribution interchangeably, a mistake I have heard again recently. Not much has changed in how the word is received. Restitution and retribution are not similar concepts, not even on the same field, I believe. On the contrary, restitution is the God answer/solution that comes in the opposite spirit to retribution. A beautiful biblical principal of restoring back what was taken – and broken – it is a redemptive picture of bringing balance, equity and justice to a bruised, unjust system. Restoring relationship. Redeeming a broken something and making it good – for all.
My friend whose shoulders drooped at the mention of the word is not alone. I have seen people’s demeanor change almost instantly. I believe that there are many reasons for this that I won’t go into in depth on a short blog, such as the guilt that comes with being a resourced person in South Africa at this time, especially because that wealth/resource/opportunity was gained by the colour of one’s skin at the expense of those with a different colour skin. Another reason could be the hold that money has over most of our hearts as human beings, and the self-protective fear that there will not be ‘enough’. Also, the individualistic worldview that many westerners/white people live by which has little room for communal responsibility. Those are three articles on their own.
I want to keep it simple though. As a person of faith, who believes in a redeeming God and the possibility of ‘another way‘, I have the desire to see the word reclaimed. I have had a long walk with the word and concept, that has affected many aspects of my life and choices (although I still have a long way to go) – and it does not have negative connotations for me personally, mainly because of what I have seen modelled, and the subsequent joy that goes with bringing things back into rightness. When I think of restitution, I think of JOY. Imagine a hashtag called #restitutionjoy – just to challenge the idea of the negativity that goes with the word. Righteousness (right living) and restitution go hand in hand – and those who follow Christ would most likely say they pursue righteousness. Living right with God and fellow humans brings joy – it is not always easy, but joy follows righteousness.
In this day and age, sacrifice and joy are not words often teamed together. So, one could think I am talking about the ‘joy’ that comes with giving in a charity type of way – I am a firm believer that charity is no substitute for justice withheld – as St Augustine said, and simple charity is becoming more distasteful to me as the days of a lack of justice go by. The joy that comes from charity is not what I am referring to when I speak of joy, although I do believe generosity and joy are intertwined. It goes deeper than that. I believe that as resourced South Africans who gained wealth/resource/opportunity unjustly (and this is not rocket science if one knows one’s history, thinking South Africans seldom deny the facts), the sacrifice that comes with redressing the balance by sharing wealth/resource/opportunity – and our very lives, shall be pure joy.
If there is no restitution – and humility – then the opposite, which is retribution that does not point to Christ’s way, will most likely follow. We have a choice as individuals and communities – to share the wealth and resource in life-giving, no-strings-attached, relational ways that are sacrificial, and embrace God’s way of redeeming that which has been stolen from us all. This is the way to life for us as South Africans. And pure joy, in the real sense of the joy that follows right living, will be the fruit. The more who live this way, the more fruit there will be.
I am still on the journey. I am still seeking and finding ways that I can share and ‘restitute’ better and make right that which is unrighteous in our country, requiring change and sacrifice. I sometimes feel paralysed by the greater need and the “how do we do this well” and and and … I have a friend who reminds me that once something is on our agenda and we are seeking, the answers will follow. And they do. Along with the joy of obedience and surrender.
*someone has mentioned it would be helpful to be given some ideas of how one can make restitution, especially if one does not have two houses or cars etc. I have many ideas which I will be sharing in the coming weeks – #101Ideas!