Evil & the Justice of God pt.1

I want to post a few quotes from this great book. I read it this past week in preparation for this message.

He starts talking about how we tend to make moral judgments, and specifically relates it to pedophilia. He says that this seems to be one of the few universally accepted moral evils, but

we should be aware of the unthinking moralism which is so eager to condemn it simply because we hate the thought of it rather than on properly thought-out grounds.

I think his suggesting “restorative justice” as a way forward is something which is both very hard to accept (especially when it comes to those things we judge as “worse” evils), and very encouraging. I’ve spent at least a few hours this past week reading story after story about how this way of dealing with people and communities is making great strides toward reconciliation, as opposed to simply us vs. them. What would our families, our communities, our neighborhoods, our cities, and beyond, look like if they embraced restorative justice rather than distributive?

I also think he makes a great point, which I may tend to overemphasize (?), here:

The problem of the individual… is presented in the Bible as a subset of the larger problem of Israel, of humankind and of creation itself.

I know it’s hard for most people to think this way. We’ve been programmed to think that each person’s individual problems are primarily their own problems, and they have no relation to anyone else. My problems are my fault and responsibility, alone, and that person’s problems are their fault and their responsibility, alone. But, what would it look like if we each took responsibility for each other, holistically? Rather than using the modern language of “rights,” which is the selfish way of insisting this or that for myself, how can we shift back to the concept of responsibility toward others?

This is one of the statements that largely shaped my teaching Sunday night, about how Christ’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection was to rid the world of injustice, but

this was not intended simply as a distant goal for which one was compelled to wait in passive expectation. God’s future had already broken into the present in Jesus, and the church’s task consisted not least of implementing that achievement and thus anticipating that future.

I had Laura Thomasson (Jared’s wife) read a passage from the first section of the book of Acts. In that section, Jesus gives the great commission, and then the angels ask the disciples, “Why are you standing there, looking up at the sky?” They had been told what to do, but they weren’t doing anything.

I’m sure I will post some more from this highly recommended book.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Evil & the Justice of God pt.1

  1. Rob,
    I’ve got a question. I like this idea of “restorative justice”, I’ve heard of it, not in that specific terminology, but in the voices of others that have influenced me in the past. It is hard to accept and yet it is easy to see in the gospels, for Jesus “restores” those who the rest of society viewed as morally repugnant, either because of their choices or due to their handicaps. Either way, many viewed these people as sinful.

    What I wonder, though, is if there is any room for a distributive justice here in the present or is that simply something we wait for when God returns. Because, it seems to me that as you look at the whole of Scripture, God seems to be saying that ultimately justice is his, and it is his work. So, for those who seek not to be restored, what is to be done with them? What about the oppressor who does not turn from his ways?

    I guess what I am asking, more practically, is what do you do with people who were involved in war atrocities, perhaps they participated in Rwanda, in the Holocaust, in Darfur; what do you do with those who seek not reconciliation but escape from their violence? Is that simply done in the judicial system? How should the Christian community react?

  2. I found this video from the ELCA, which tells the story of a family whose son was murdered being somewhat “reconciled” with their son’s killer:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7788543819683169910&q=restorative+justice

    I think there must be a long process involved. I don’t personally see the need to try to completely get rid of the current justice system, just that it desperately needs reform.

    Cyn is working on an essay for one of her classes about the death penalty. She found out hundreds of people have been released from prison because of false convinctions. That’s some scary crap.

    I think we as the Church working toward these reforms is a step in the right direction. I also found these two Prison Fellowship sites:

    http://www.restorativejustice.org/
    http://www.justicefellowship.org/

    It seems they are having some great conversations and making strides toward reform.

    As far as those who refuse to be reconciled, I can honestly think of a specific person in my own life who refused to work through anything. Throughout years of being literally “abused” by this person (emotionally, spiritually, etc.), I decided it was best, both for my family and our community, if that person was in a sense “let go” from all of us. That was a hard call to make, but I don’t regret it. So, I guess there will always be cases of those who refuse the to confront and work through issues.

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