I recently attended a social function and had the privilege of meeting a now-retired District Court Judge, who is regarded as a pioneer of restorative justice reform, within New Zealand and internationally.
As a Justice of the Peace and a Pastor of a church this for me was of special significance since I have a particular interest in both Justice and in the one who has the title ‘Prince of Peace!’
The term restorative justice has gained wide acceptance in not only the criminal justice system, but it has gained wide acceptance with Schools, Social Agencies and the principle is now applied successfully in many other settings. The reason for its success?
Because the goal has an emphasis on healing and restoration and may require restitution, a demonstration of genuine remorse by the offender for damage or injury to the victims who would be expected to see the offender rehabilitated rather than showing a punitive, retributive response demanding punishment!
We have a very limited understanding of justice, which for most people is merely a tit for tat, quid pro quo punitive system
The rational, logical approach makes sense to most of us but it places us all on a dangerous and destructive cycle of violence.
As someone has said:
An eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth would lead to a world of the blind and toothless.”
We need to be reminded who among us is without fault and has the right to cast the first stone?
How often do we hear the cry “We want Justice” but what is really meant is we want revenge or you deserve to be punished! Unless of course, we want justice for ourselves and then we cry out for mercy which is not getting what we deserve or even better still please show me grace, which is getting what I really don’t deserve
Our judicial, legal and penal systems are almost entirely based on this idea of retributive justice, but Jesus himself ‘closed the book on vengeance’ and when he refused to endorse the idea of divine retribution on their enemies, the crowd turned viciously against him and tried to throw him off a cliff!
The restorative justice of God requires eyes that see not only the victim, but also the human being who is the perpetrator.
His Justice system is perfect and everything he does is just and fair. He actually defines justice and righteousness.
Biblical wisdom demonstrates this and Jesus’ radical teaching and his perfect example highlights this so well.
Paul says in Romans 12:
Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. Don’t be obsessed with taking revenge, but leave that to God’s righteous justice. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
That makes sense to me!