In this world in which we live, we likely conceive of justice as primarily the punishment of wrongdoers. That is our justice system’s strength: it is much easier to take away from wrongdoers than it is to make restitution to the wronged. If true restitution requires restoring the loss of life or undoing bodily harm, then our justice system is simply incapable of providing it.
We grieve bitterly when we have lost something that cannot be restored in this lifetime. If we cannot get back what was taken from us, we want the person who took it to suffer the same pain that he caused. But the pain doesn’t leave us, and we long for restoration. That, we sense deep down, is true justice.
And if we believe that true justice is an impossibility, we abandon ourselves to cynicism and despair, and to a system of vengeance that never ends. That is the system of the world in which we live. Everyone feels wronged, so everyone seeks to repay wrong for wrong, an eye for an eye and then some.
But what if we had hope that what has been lost can be restored, and then some? Could we find it in ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us? Might we even try to help them acquire their own restoration?
The Resurrection of Jesus reveals to us that God is capable of restoring all that was lost. We can have hope now, rather than despair, because true justice, the justice we long for, is possible with God. God can forgive us because God can restore what we have destroyed. God has never needed, let alone wanted, violence in order to effect his justice.
We can forgive, not only because we have been forgiven, but also because we know that God will restore everything that we have lost. And so neither do we require, nor should we want, violence in order to effect justice. What is more, we understand that to seek justice by violence is no justice at all. It’s simply an attempt to play God, but we do not have the power nor the knowledge of God’s character to carry out the true justice that God desires.
In a world that knows only how to repay insult for insult, injury for injury, lay claim instead to the restoration that God offers us. Accept God’s love and mercy, and extend it to others. Set your heart upon the fullness of life, and help others to find it. This is how we imitate Christ, how we display God’s character just as he did.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
Revelation 21: 1-5, NRSV