Friday, August 21, 2009

restorative justice

Rereading for the umpteenth time the chapter, "A Society for Justice," in The Jesus Creed, made me think of how we American Christians tend to look at justice in retributive terms, rather than restorative.

Scot McKnight brings up in the book in the chapter on forgiveness, a Jewish scholar, Solomon Schimmel, who sees a difference between forgiveness as understood in Judaism, and Christian forgiveness. Judaism, and what we call the old coventant underscores the fact that it is God who forgives, so that any forgiveness would hinge on that. And that repentance is required. The only instance of humans forgiving each other is when Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery in Egypt.

Christian forgiveness comes from the new teaching and the new covenant in Jesus. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them. It involves "preemptive forgiveness" as when Jesus called out to the Father to forgive those who executed him. We see it at Stephen's stoning, as well, vastly different than what we see in the Old Testament. There is more to be said on forgiveness.

This restorative justice has serious implications on how we see life today. We must see it in the light of the fulfillment of the old covenant in the coming of God's kingdom now present on earth in Jesus, and in which we as followers of Jesus live. We need to live this out among ourselves, and then seek to see it carried out in our prison systems, something Charles Colson's ministry seeks to do.

So that both a murderer who is repentant, and their victims can actually work through the evil that has been done, face to face if both should choose to. And then find forgiveness and healing, through Jesus. This has yielded dramatic results in some places. And it's something I'm working on, as I think through the forgiveness that is needed, ongoing among us, and is part of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

Any thoughts you'd like to add here?

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