I’ve probably been guilty of all the relationship-wrecking behaviors that I’ve occasionally seen in others. When hurt, slighted or offended, we want the offenders to get their “just deserts.” We want to be right. Maybe we just want what’s fair, for ourselves or for others. We think we want justice. In either case, we might believe we need to fight to protect ourselves from hurt and to get what we think we or another needs or deserves.
I’ve learned that justice is more about restoring God’s order. It’s about relationships more than economics or legalities. If our relationships are in right order, justice will follow, legally, economically, and morally. Instead of defending ourselves against hurt or lack, we can be thankful for all we have received. When we know we are cared for, we can seek good for others.
If we are in right relationship with others, we will act out of love, above fairness. How can we love someone and allow them to starve while we feast? If we view our money and possessions as good gifts from God, then we are stewards of them for God. How does He want us to use them? If we see injustice in our economic system, the poor becoming poorer, how can we work to reverse that process? What can we do to make it easier for someone who has less?
I think God’s justice is in partnership with mercy. God does not want us to hurt each other, nor to be hurt ourselves. Vengeance does not really make us feel better, but reconciliation does. Yes, those who do wrong should stop hurting others and they should make the wrong right in whatever way they can, giving back what was taken and repairing the hurt. And those who have been hurt should allow the relationship to be restored if possible and so become free of bitterness and anger, whether apologies, changed behavior and recompense happen or not.
God does not pretend that we have never done anything wrong or that there are not consequences for wrongdoing. But He moves beyond that, not to punishment but to restoring right relationships. His justice is a saving justice – a resurrection from a death. As we die to old ways of life and rise to new ones with Him, we move to a relationship where love rules. That takes precedence over right and wrong or getting what is fair. God loves us enough to set us free!
I would like to suggest that this is what we are doing in the Community of Hope. The need for good jobs and affordable housing in our community is great! Some people who lack stable housing have made bad decisions. Some have never learned better. We can bemoan the disparity of income or think some are less deserving of help, or we can choose to work at restoring relationships. We can give today, financially or with our time, to offer help to a few families at a time to restore relationships. We can make it possible for them to have a place to stay while they gain skills to have more long-term stability. If we see that others have made decisions that caused them to struggle right now, we can help people gain new skills to support them in making good decisions while loving them as they are continuing their journey. Most of all, we offer true freedom of God’s love in concrete ways and seek His healing care for all of us. None of us can make everything right ourselves, but each of us can make some small effort to move the balance toward more healing, equality, and right relationships when we partner with God. Join us in working for justice, one family at a time.