God's Justice

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In the OT justice is primarily focused on Israel who is oppressed under pagan captivity calling out for justice. We can see this is the Psalms which speak of being "saved" from those who pursue and attack David, to the Prophets who speak of the poor being lifted up from under their burden. Jesus quotes several of these prophesies that speak of good news to the poor, and it is from this understandable that the Jews at the time expected the Messiah to be one who would destroy the evil pagans and restore Israel to its former glory.

But the message of the NT and Jesus instead says that evil is not just "them" over there, it is "us". We are all sinners, and if we only seek to destroy the bad guys to bring about justice, we will find ourselves at the end of that sword. To put this in the language of Paul, we have all sinned, we are all guilty, and we are all subject to wrath. So the good news of wrath - that the bad guys are gonna get it - is really bad news because we are all guilty of oppressing and hurting others.

At the same time though we are also victims of sin. Both sin done to us by others, and also by our own sins that imprison us in hurtful self -destructive behavior. So while we need to be saved from wrath, that can't be all. There needs to be a different way for justice to come about, not by destroying our enemies (which will just come back to get us since we are all guilty of hurting others), but of a way to lift ourselves out of the bondage of hurting, and to stop the cycle of blame and revenge. So here we go from the idea of retributive justice (and also of the idea of acquittal from retributive justice) to the idea of restorative justice, of a justice focused on setting things right, mending what was broken. Because while we now see in the light of the NT that we are the oppressor, we are at the same time the victim too. The victim of others hurtfulness, but also the victim of our own hurtfulness, and merely not getting punished does not actually take us out of that bondage to hurt we are stuck in. It does not bring about justice in us to simply get clemency. We need to go beyond a punitive model to a restorative model that heals what has been broken in us and our world, one that redeems and makes all things new, that gives us new life. Going from the way of and eye for an eye to the way of overcoming evil with good through love of enemies and unmerited grace that God demonstrates by loving us first while we were his enemies because of our hurtfulness. That is the good news to the poor.

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At 11:03 PM, Blogger David Castor said...

Interesting thoughts on restorative justice. Would you regard this period of restoration as being wholely within this world, or partially in the next i.e. something purgatorial?

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Shark, I love your blog. I recently discovered it. I just finished reading your paper on Hell that you have linked on your sidebar. I hope you don't mind that I linked to it from my blog.

It was excellent and captures a lot of things I've felt and thought over the years. The topic of Hell is one I've wrestled with A LOT.

God bless.

At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No idea about Purgatory. I'm do think that there needs to be a renewal of all things that will go beyond what we are able to achieve on this earth where "every tear will be wiped away". Here we know in part...

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jon, glad you made it over! Glad you liked the Hell article, link away :)

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished reading your essay on penal substitution vs christus victor. I am very intrigued and I think you are putting into words some things that have been on my mind for a while. One thing I struggle with there and in this blog post is the idea that christus victor takes on a victim mentality to sin. I would really like to know how this view of atonement fits in with the idea that we do viciously choose to sin and are guilty, not just victims, of evil.

If God is out to fight evil then in a sense he is out to fight us since the fall corrupted us such that we have become evil ourselves. This is the one issue I am grappling with. I can understand how the cross works to free us from the oppression of evil, but not how it deals with the fact that I am evil.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is a great question! So I'm gonna address it in a longer blog post. http://sharktacos.com/God/2007/07/evil-in-us.html


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