Most of the time when we hear the word “justice” we automatically think of some one getting what they deserve because that’s how our judicial system works… If someone breaks the law they are punished, justice is served. This is how most of us view justice.
In many instances this actually brings us comfort… to know that those who wrong us have paid for what they have done. We want revenge.
Sometimes, we Christians, say things such as, “I am just going to let God get the revenge on them.” This makes us think we are doing a good thing even though we are still seeking revenge on that person.
If we are honest, revenge is what “retributive justice” (punishment) is all about. It’s about making things “even” (or getting even).
So is divine justice retributive or is there another way to view justice? Can justice also accurately be viewed as restorative, and instead of making things “even”, making things right?
In Matthew 5, Jesus speaks of retributive justice like this… “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth,’ But I tell you do not resist and evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…”
An “eye for an eye” was another way of saying that the punishment should fit the crime, and Jesus changes it. He says instead of making things even you should not “resist” (anthistemi: to stand against) an evil person. In other words, do not do back to them what they have done to you.
There are many other examples throughout the scriptures that depicts Justice as restorative and non-violent (which I will write about later), but here Jesus seems to view Justice as something other than our idea of retributive justice. Jesus’ idea of justice was meant to redeem and restore.
Are our traditional understandings of hell non-violent, redeeming, and restorative? Or do they seem to be based on a justice system built upon principles of getting even and seeking revenge?