The Gospel of Restoration

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Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:3).

One of my favorite TV shows was the History Channel’s American Restoration. Before a new cast took over the show, it featured a guy named Rick Dale and his shop, Rick’s Restorations, in Las Vegas, Nevada. People brought Rick everything from broken vending machines to beat-up motorcycles, asking if he could restore them. Many times he’d take a deep breath and fold his arms. You could see the wheels turning in his head: Can I bring this thing back to life?

Rick loved a challenge, so he usually agreed to the project (for a hefty price). Then he and his crew would get started.

The best part of the show was when the customer came back to pick up the item. Rick let the suspense build a little and then unveiled it. He was so excited to see the reaction to his work. The camera zoomed in on the customer’s wide-opened eyes (and mouths), and you’d hear “Oh, my gosh. I don’t believe it!”

Then Rick showed them what he and his team had done, describing every step it took to restore the object to its former glory. The really cool thing was that the item worked again; it had been restored to do what it was made to do.


God of restoration

This show is a good analogy of how God works. He loves to take what is broken down and cast off, and restore it to fulfill its original purpose. But I’m not talking about stuff; I’m talking about people. God is all about restoring people — all kinds: broken up, beaten down, and everything in between.

I say this because God showed it. There’s a story in the Gospel of Luke about an encounter between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman IRS. Tax collectors were despised by their fellow Jews for at least two reasons. One, they worked for the Roman occupiers, and two, they collected a big commission in addition to the taxes. Consequently, tax collectors were viewed as traitors and extortionists who were beyond redemption — cut off from God and shunned by His people.

So it caused quite an uproar when, passing through Zacchaeus’ town, Jesus not only made it a point to speak to Zacchaeus but also insisted on having supper at his house! The tax collector was so grateful that, during the meal, he stood up and told Jesus he would give half his possessions to the poor and pay back fourfold anyone he’d defrauded (Luke 19:8). Quite a change of heart and business model.

Jesus responded to Zacchaeus’ repentance and faith by declaring that salvation had come to his house. Then He told the astonished guests, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (v. 10). Jesus made it clear that His primary mission was one of redemption — to find people and bring them back to God; and then restoration — to so change them that they can fulfill their original purpose from God. I think it’s significant that Jesus made this statement in the house of someone whom everyone, including Zacchaeus, thought couldn’t be redeemed, much less restored.


Valued people

I’ve met a few Zacchaeuses. As a young pastor, I would go into the community to visit people, asking them to consider coming to church. A few of them said to me, “I couldn’t come to your church; you wouldn’t want me there. You don’t know what I’m like or what I’ve done.” They believed (perhaps because they were made to feel) they were beyond repair. In everyone’s eyes, they were so damaged, they couldn’t be fixed — like a car in the back corner of a junkyard or a tattered chair set out by the curb, unwanted and no longer of any use.

Maybe you know someone like that. If that’s the case, consider this: Every person is worth restoring.

Every item brought in to Rick Dale’s shop was worth restoring in the eyes of customers. It didn’t matter how dirty or rusted, broken or old; they wanted the item restored. It meant something to them, so they brought it to Rick.

That’s the way God sees it. Every person is worth restoring because everybody means something to Him. It doesn’t matter how broken they might be; no one is beyond God’s ability to redeem and restore. All they need is for someone to bring them to Him, and He’ll get to work, as Galatians 6:1 urges: “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (NRSV). And somewhere along the way, somebody’s eyes will get wide and their mouth will fall open and they’ll say, “Oh, my gosh! I don’t believe it!”

Because just like Rick, God is into restoration.

John LeBlanc
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John LeBlanc has pastored churches in Texas, Virginia, and California, and his writing has appeared in Good News Magazine. He and his wife, Jean, have two adult sons and live in Oceanside, CA.