No one will be surprised to know that I have some thoughts on justice. I want to look at justice as it applies to criminal behaviour, and justice as it applies to issues in society and the way in which people groups are treated.
The apostolic changes the dynamic of the church. No longer is it merely a sanctuary where people experiencing injustice can run to, but it becomes the place from which reformers are commissioned and sent. The Christians who make up the church are sent ones, charged with the assignment to make earth like heaven and therefore people should be treated according to the culture & principles of heaven rather than earth.
Firstly it is important to put a definition on what I call Kingdom Justice. I developed this because of reading in Jeremiah that God delights in justice. It was a verse that had this ex-prison governor puzzled. How can God delight in justice? Clearly, it cannot be based on the earth based model and experience I have had. It must be something more than that. I concluded that heavens justice is based on God being for us, rather than against us. In fact, judgment day in the bible will be the day that God judges for those whose name is in the book of life and yet at times we have presented it as the very opposite.
My resulting definition of heaven’s or kingdom justice is that its purpose is the restoration of relationships. He will judge for us as those who have chosen relationship with Him. This points to and comes from the greatest act of justice and yet the greatest act of injustice that this world has ever witnessed – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The outcome of that event was that we are all able as we believe in him to be justified, to be made in right standing with God.
As we read the bible we see that a principle was established in the garden of Eden which sets us on course if we allow it. Adam & Eve were removed from the garden, not for punishment but for protection, so that the effect of their sin was not eternal for all of mankind but that it could be pardoned by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. In other words that one day we could all be invited into the restoration of relationship with God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
Let’s start with justice as it applies to criminal behaviour. The punishment of an offender must not be the starting place. Rather it is a question of creating a safe society in which the majority can live in peace and safety. Decisions of the courts of law should be viewed as more of a consequence than a punishment, the punishment being withdrawal from freedom into a place where they can have the best opportunity of being restored. Of course, not everyone can be or wants to be but that is their responsibility, not ours. Apostolic principles applied to the treatment of offenders must have at its core the hope and belief that redemption is for all mankind, that there is no sin so far removed that the person cannot receive forgiveness and begin a journey of redemption, even if they must remain in prison for the rest of their lives.
Secondly is that subject of what many would call social justice. An interesting term which not so long ago was not used by Christians and perhaps can easily be misunderstood. I would suggest that when used by apostolic believers that it is referring to the righting of wrongs done in society which are contrary to the principles of our faith. Once again we can apply the principle of restoration of relationship. The wrongs of our society can all be seen through the lens of being robbed of relationship and/or the identity of being created in the image of God and worthy of honour.
There is a great need for justice as it applies to providing that all mankind are treated and given honour and respect as befits those made in the image of God.
Jesus on the cross, in the tomb, his descent into hell and resurrection did everything required for all of us to receive justice in this life and the next. Our apostolic assignment is to live out and represent the intention of our saviour. In so doing we provide everyone with the opportunity to be redeemed, learn how to create safe societies and communities, believing that the treatment of offenders must always carry the heart of redemption, even if that person is never able to be restored to society.
Jesus’ act was also for all of mankind, male and female and every tribe and tongue. Treatment of any group as less than being made in the image of God must be included in our apostolic mandate.