14 January 2006

God's Justice

'Justice is located where ever God's people are set free'

I don't know to whom to attribute this quotation, but it was given to us yesterday at the end of our three-day Racism Awareness class (the tutor also didn't know who orginally said it).

I suspect that some people, Christians included, will disagree with this statement. They might read 'setting a person free' as being the same things as 'letting a person do whatever feels good'. I don't know about you, but I hear this latter statement quite a bit whenever I say something that suggests that God is ultimately merciful, gracious, forgiving and creative.

I think that there is a reason that a lot of people won't like the idea that justice means setting someone free: In the state of original sin, humankind wants its pound of flesh back when someone does something wrong. 'You made me hurt, so I'm going to show you what it feels like. Justice will not be done until you hurt as much as I do'. If I'm being really honest what I actually mean is 'Justice won't be done until I make you hurt a lot more than you hurt me.' Is it any wonder that violence escalates in our world?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is subversive because it turns the world's 'common-sense' upside down. The world's 'common-sense' seems to think that justice is done when the wrong-doer is punished and the victim is left to heal on his or her own. I believe that God's justice happens when the truth is told, God's people get alongside the victim in a healing ministry and the wrong-doer makes restitution and is forgiven. Restitution does not mean the wrong-doer is made to hurt for the sake of hurting, it means the wrong-doer makes a meaningful gesture to restore what was taken from his or her victim.

There is a parallel here with my previous post. In that post, I said that God calls God's children to stand up for what is right even if doing so is costly and difficult, but that God does not want us to suffer simply for suffering's sake. In God's Justice, the wrong-doer may very well suffer in the process of looking honestly at the harm that he or she has done. The wrong-doer may suffer in trying to make honest restitution; but perhaps not. It is not the suffering of the wrong-doer that is God's goal, it is the healing and the freedom of the victim that is God's goal.

'Justice is done where ever God's people are set free.' God calls disciples of Christ to look for ways to set others free. May we be given strength, nourishment and inspiration in this calling.

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