repairing nations, washing wounds
How am I like the jailor? I feel an internal resistance to stepping into those boots. When we sing Eyes on the Prize, we imagine ourselves righteously imprisoned on false charges. Not the agent of the law, just doing his job.
When Paul and Silas had been severely beaten, the authorities threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to secure them with great care. When he received these instructions, he threw them into the innermost cell and secured their feet in stocks. Acts 16:23-24 (CEB)
Authorities, systems, citizens. Holocausts and genocides. The Middle Passage, American slavery, Jim Crow laws. Nations and individuals and the need for repair. What is my role? What is our calling?
In the process of preparing the Zoom recording of our first Reparations Conversation for viewing, I have listened multiple times, and still find myself learning. Some nations admit wrongdoing and attempt reparations, acknowledging that there is no adequate price for suffering. Others pay back wages for forced labor- compensation without admission of guilt. Some do neither, revising history to avoid responsibility in word or wallet.
Our possible responses to wrongs committed-as individuals and nations- vary widely. History is instructive in what has “worked” and what has terribly failed. If we care to listen and learn.
When the jailer awoke and saw the open doors of the prison, he thought the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul shouted loudly, “Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here!” Acts 16:27-28 (CEB)
Earthquakes set prisoners free. Then what do we do? Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued the Israelites to the Red Sea. Southern states enacted laws to roll back new freedoms. Lynchings and murders flourished unchecked. There was no re-education of the population.
Reparations bankrupted post-WWI Germany and led to the rise of Hitler. Following the Holocaust, there was a different approach. Denazification. A word I hadn’t heard. Forced to face the truth. German reparations- to Israel, to Holocaust survivors, for cultural repair- were voluntary and are ongoing.
Right then, in the middle of the night, the jailer welcomed them and washed their wounds. He and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his home and gave them a meal. He was overjoyed because he and everyone in his household had come to believe in God. Acts 16:33-24 (CEB)
If I recognize that I have been part of the system, I have an opportunity to change. To respond differently to the earthquake. The jailer listened to Paul and Silas. Asked them questions. Recognized that they had truth to offer that could change his life. He tended their wounds, fed their bodies, and welcomed them into his home.
“We are all here,” Paul said, following the earthquake. None of us has escaped. How true that is, both then and now. We are here together. The ground has been shaken. Prisoners set free. How will we respond?
May we tend to the damage around us. Listen to voices of salvation. Embrace truths that can set us all free. And may we experience joy together in shared faith and action. One household. We are all here. -Renée