“Compassionate Reconciling Justice is not simply the opposite of injustice, but it cuts right through erasing and reversing it.”
In today’s world, the idea of justice is confusing, almost chaotic as injustice itself. This is so because everyone has his or her own expectations and demands on what justice should be like and how it should be served. Every tribe and every organization, legal or illegal, comes up with their own demands of justice whenever faced with a situation of injustice. We recently saw how a Kangaroo court ordered the gang rape of a girl for an alleged affair; a few young men executed for molestation and assault on some girls; a divorced woman meting out her own brutal justice; and villagers demanding that the culprits in a crime “be handed over to them” so that they can mete out their own punishment. The examples are numerous.
Why do we often find ourselves in such difficult situations? There may be several reasons [or errors in our thinking]. To name a few: (1) We don’t have enough faith in our law and order system to do their job in punishing the guilty. (2) We think there are several concepts of justice coexisting and that ours is the best and most effective (Superiority complex). (3) We think that justice is something which we can see and experience right here, right now (Immediate results-almost Utopian). We think we can put an end to the reign of injustice and serve justice on a plate to our people. We think of justice only as punishment [or revenge], and not as a remedy to solve a problem long term.
But what we think is not always right. The first reason is somewhat understandable, although not advisable. The other two are the more dangerous ones.
The Error of Superior Justice.
The second error mentioned is that of superiority. As Christians, we are tempted to say that our “Christian-biblical” idea of justice is superior and therefore should be applied to all. After all, if God is the God of all peoples, the justice of God must be the justice of all people. Although I tend to agree with this, we have to be careful as it may lead to dangerous situations of conflicting justices. Following this line, we may even be tempted to think that our Tribal justice is superior to that of the Government. But Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God” (Good News Bible). So we can conclude that the State gets its authority from God, and therefore has Divine sanction to rule over us. Obedience and submission to this authority is a spiritual responsibility as well.
The Error of Fully-Realised-Justice.
As for the third error—(Immediate results and actions to fix all our problems)—justice is not something that can happen overnight, rather it is a process. It is not a huge mountain standing upright for all to see [yet], but rather it is like a slow growing tree. It is not just a good idea, but it is more a lifestyle. I believe this is the picture of justice the Bible gives. Right from Genesis the stone of justice is rolling, rolling toward us and will lead to the final Judgment Day when the whole world will face God, where God’s justice will stand like a full-grown mountain for all to see.
But this, of course, does not mean that we postpone our responsibility to take our stance on justice and act accordingly. We can learn a better attitude when we apply wisdom and patience to distinguish between our own idea of fully-realized-justice and God’s justice itself which is rolling in tune with God’s purposes for all creation. We need to learn to negotiate between them by applying other virtues such as discernment, love and grace.
Some Useful Virtues in
our Pursuit of Justice.
Love and grace in the Bible is best demonstrated within the framework of justice as we see in the passion and the cross of Jesus. The great love of God was best displayed in that terrible moment of justice on the cross, symbolizing how love and justice can combine to bring about compassionate justice. Sometimes, as the situation demands, we may be required to sacrifice our rights and dignities—to be wronged, to be blamed—for the cause of God’s Kingdom. It requires grace and love to walk this path. It requires a clear vision of the cross and its glory, where justice guarded in love and mercy.
Bible commentators tell us that the right translation for dikaiousune (righteousness) is “compassionate, reconciling justice,” and not “individual righteousness” as we often understand it. This “compassionate-reconciling-justice” is not inward looking but outward. This is a compassionate justice that looks out for the common good and limits greed, reconciles enemies, feeds the hungry and challenges unjust systems in society. It is spiritual because it is social. It is powerful because it is selfless.
This compassionate justice is not simply the opposite of injustice, but it cuts right through erasing and reversing it. It is best practiced within the framework of love and grace as displayed on the Cross by Christ. This justice is compassionate because it values the worth of even the evildoer and sees him or her as God’s image bearer within God’s purview of love and grace. Any justice system or practice that violates the person or community, any attitude that excludes and devalues the other in the search of a just society is an act of injustice even if it comes from the best religious system.
Therefore, in our passionate pursuit of justice, firstly, we need to see that it is not raw justice, but compassionate and reconciling. Without this, even our concept justice will soon turn into injustice itself. Secondly, justice simply put, is giving to each person what is due to them. And what is due them—according to the Sermon on the Mount—is to do unto them what we would want them do unto us. We give them their due when they are forgiven and reconciled into the unity and grace which Christ has provided for everyone. True justice is done when the sin and injustice is removed, and when the evildoer find themselves reconciled to God.
Is this compassionate-reconciling-justice too strange? Maybe. But I believe this is what the Kingdom of God is like.