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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

Reparations...It's Complicated!

The BIG Conversation! The topic of reparations is hard. It's emotional. And polarizing. But it's a question that we get at outreaches...a LOT. So, we finally shared publicly about where we are with this issue.


Reparations Conversation

First of all, this topic is very COMPLEX! And very emotional!

It involves real people...and their money.

Our goal for tonight's conversation: Help people understand both sides of the conversation.

Based on our friend and mentor, Ken Samples, we want to follow the Golden Rule of Apologetics. These means we want to truly understand the best arguments on the other side of the issue, be able to articulate them, and then be able to respond to them.

The BIG IDEA behind reparations:

It is a debt for the work that slaves did that was never compensated for; therefore, since that money was never given to the slaves, it should be given to the African Descendants of Slavery (ADOS).

There are basically two issues here:

1. Unpaid slave labor

2. Being barred from building wealth after slavery

California has already been working on reparations legislation for a few years now. You can Google "reparations" to see what is happening in your state on this issue.

This being said, what is the Biblical position on reparations? What do the Scriptures say?

The equivalent term used in the Scriptures is RESTITUTION.

The big picture principle: Restitution is a deeply Biblical idea. Monetary compensation for a wrong is a critical part of God's standard of justice.


Exodus 21:18-19 & 28-36; 22:4

What about the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-10?

This is typically a key proof-text for Christians who support the idea of reparations. In Zacchaeus' story, his repayment was based on obedience to the Law AND his own heart change; he paid back (4x over!) directly to the people he had defrauded.

**For the full context of Zacchaeus' story, check out the deep dive on Krista's podcast:

Zacchaeus & The Case For Reparations:

BUT, here's the problem:

The Biblical pattern throughout Scripture is that repayment of wrongs is between two parties: the person who did the wrong and the person who was wronged (whether it is intentional or unintentional).

Therefore, the problem with reparations today is that the people who were directly involved with slavery are now dead.

What should have happened after the Civil War?

Distinction between PERSON-TO-PERSON and NATIONAL resolution!

In terms of person-to-person:

**A type of "severance package" should have been provided to former slaves (Deuteronomy 15: 12-15)

**Christian slave owners should have repented for kidnapping and forced labor; they should have let their slaves go and provided adequate means to live (ie "severance package")

In terms of the national front:

**Re-distribution of land to former slaves that was confiscated during the Civil War, known as General Sherman's Special Field Order 15 (aka "40 acres & a mule"); HOWEVER, President Lincoln was killed and Field Order 15 was never followed through once Andrew Johnson came into office (even though the Order was signed off by Lincoln).

**Resulted in possible resentment and distrust in the government by black Americans

Other groups have been paid restitution by the government for previous mistreatment, such as:

**Japanese Americans who were interred during WWII

**Native Americans (was not always received/handled well, but attempts were made)

HOWEVER, this is not the case for black Americans; therefore, a fair question to ask--no matter what side of the reparations conversation you are on-- is: why not??

Obstacles to executing restitution/reparations:

**The people directly involved with slavery are no longer alive, so in terms of a Biblical precedent, there is no warrant to pay restitution for wrongs committed by one's ancestors.

**Where will the money come from??

Question: What about welfare? Isn't that a form of reparations?

No, welfare is available to any person based on their current living conditions. Welfare has nothing to do with a wrong done to a specific group of people.

Question: Will reparations fix the problems facing black Americans today?

No, there are many factors involved...not necessarily due to slavery and the connection would need to be proven...people make their own choices and this must be factored in.

What should we do??

**Doesn't seem to be a Biblical warrant for reparations for African Descendants of Slavery (ADOS); however, there may be a case for people still living who were directly impacted by redlining and Jim Crow laws, although it would be challenging to prove...

(BUT, remember that redlining also impacted white careful not to fall into partiality!).

**If your heart is prompted by the Holy Spirit, listen to the Lord!


It's complicated, BUT we know that ultimately justice will be done because our God is a just God.

Thank you for your grace and patience with us as we navigated this conversation publicly for the first time. Please share your thoughts with us and let us know what feedback you have. Email us at

Resources mentioned:

**Note: These are articles/books/sermons presenting the case for reparations from a Christian perspective. Although these are from Christian sources, we may agree with some aspects presented and we may disagree with some aspects. These sources give several examples of the general conversation happening on reparations within the larger Christian community.

**Note: These authors tend to be more progressive-leaning.

Off-Code episode:

Deep dive into black history and the current state of the black vote:

Clip of Dr. Bob Woodson:

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