I blog in peace including a short vlog too:) Below is my text on the talk on Transforming Justice I presented at Campus Harvest UKZN this weekend
Please send your thoughts.
Peace, Beauty and Justice
Everyone shall be remembered, but each became great in proportion to his expectation. One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal, but he who expected the impossible became greatest of all.
Tim Keller writes that the Biblical idea of justice is comprehensive and practical, but it is also high and wonderful. God is reconciling humanity to himself and as a result of this great transaction, all things to himself. He is bringing all things in heaven and on earth.
Colossions 1:20; Ephesians 1:10
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper
My own view of justice is that accomplishing justice means to restore humanity to the original template. That we are all restored to who we were created to be both individually and in relation to the world around us.
In reality the world understands “justice” primarily as the “bad” guys getting what they “deserve”. Poor choice-makers, offenders, are brought to book or punished. And we accomplish this primarily through adversarial, dualistic or competitive processes. So in court, we pit humans against one another and see who wins. The win, then, is based on who has the best lawyer which is often a product of who can afford the best lawyer. So access to justice becomes about money.
We apply similar competitive styles of dispute “resolution” is our schools, workplaces and our marriages.
There is varying imagery in scripture to describe the making of the world. It is sometimes compared to the building of a house (Isaiah 66:1 talks about the world as a Royal Dwelling)
In the psalm the world is described as a house being built on foundations of righteousness and justice.
Jewish scholar Weinfield refers to the imposition of equality, order and harmony upon the cosmos and the elimination of the forces of destruction and chaos.
There is also the imagery of weaving a garment. The sea (in Psalm 104:6), the clouds (Job 38:9), the lights of the sky (Psalm 104:1) and all the forces of nature (Psalm 102:26) are all depicted as garments that God wove and that he wears.
Woven cloth consists of innumerable threads interlaced with one another conveying the importance of community, family and relationship.
The threads must be rightly and intimately related with one another in literally a million ways.
God created all things all things to be in a beautiful, harmonious, interdependent, knitted, webbed relationship to one another.
Rightly related humans for a community. Rightly related humans form family.
Shalom is often translated as peace. But it is more than that. It means complete reconciliation, a state of full flourishing in every dimension-physical, emotional, social and spiritual-because all relationships are right, perfect and filled with joy.
When your body is healthy, especially when you are young, you have energy, strength and beauty, because all the parts of your body are working in unity.
But when you are injured, parts of your body may be out of alignment with others. Cancers Cells work not with, but against the other systems of the body.
When the parts of your body fail to work interdependently, you experience the loss of physical shalom or well-being. And when you die, you literally unravel.
When you experience a season of mental well-being, it is because the things your emotions want are those of which your conscience and reason approve.
When your inner shalom unravels you may experience guilt, feeling conflicted or anxiety.
When society disintegrates, when there is poverty, crime and family breakdown, there is no shalom.
When people share resources and work with each other so public resources work the environment is safe and beautiful, the schools educate and the businesses flourish then the community is experiencing shalom.
When people with advantages invest in those with fewr the community experiences civic prosperity or social shalom.
But this is not the state of the world.
Genesis speaks of how humanity walked with God and served him in Eden. Under his rule and authority, it was paradise. There was supernatural provision and rest. We weren’t coach potatoes though. We were called to tend the Garden.
Under the absolute reign of God all things reach their potential and flourish in perfect harmony.
This ended when humanity turned away from God. They believed the lie that they could become like God. The irony of the deception and the lie lay in the fact that they were already like God, made in his image. They rejected his rule and kingdom, and sin entered to deface and mar everything.
When we became estranged from God, we became alienated from our true nature and from each other.
Primal self-absorption has led to profound social evil, war, crime, family breakdown, oppression and injustice.
The world is full of hunger, sickness, aging and physical death.
Was the cross, Jesus blood enough to restore us to the garden? Yet 99% of Christians live outside of the finished work, as if still kicked out of the Garden.
Justice and Shalom
To do justice means to live in a way that generates a strong community where humans flourish.
Where the fabric has broken down, weaker members of society are falling through it.
We need to repair the fabric. We need to reweave it. We need to weave ourselves into it-socially, relationally, financially and emotionally. We are the miracle workers. The agents of Justice. The game changers.
We are Christ’s ambassadors: to press our time, goods, power and resources into others.
A man comes across an ancient enemy wounded and bleeding. Many have past him by. The man stops to tend to his wounds, puts him on his donkey and takes him to an inn to recover. Jesus tells the story and instructs us to do likewise.
Luke 10: 25-37
We destroy enemies by making them friends. We fight for justice by contending for restoration of victims and offenders alike.
We serve a king that not only set free the oppressed, but oppressors too.
In Luke 22:51; Matt 26:37 Peter cuts off the ear of one of the servants of the High Priests who arrest Jesus. “Put up your sword Peter” And Jesus heals his captor. History is riddled with Peters who have failed to head the call of the servant King, to put up their swords. And the extent of perpetual violence is palpable. Jesus loves his enemy. He heals his enemy.
How do we love our enemies.
Some thoughts on Beauty:
When we think of beauty, we tend to think of aesthetic value.
Yet, although we all perceive beauty through our senses, it permeates every sphere of life-musicians hear it in a well composed symphony, artists see it in a known painting, scientists may perceive it in an ordered array of patterns in nature .
Yet despite its pervasiveness and numerous attempts by various fields of study, beauty escapes explanation, and even comparison. Can we say that Beethoven’s 5th is more beautiful than the Mona Lisa, for instance?
We cannot define beauty as a ‘thing’, for actions can have an element of beauty-the loving embrace of a mother, for instance, can encompass beauty.
Nor does beauty depend on its surroundings. Indeed, that which is beautiful is often juxtaposed with horrific events surrounding it-history is riddled with events where the the testimonies of people like Anne Frank and Victor Frankl in the holocaust, etc
Indeed, the Christian faith is symbolized by the cross, a symbol of one of the most terrible ways a person can die. Yet the cross symbolizes the most beautiful act of sacrificial love that we have ever known.
Psalm 27 starts with “Whom shall I fear” and it talks about going to a high place with the Lord, offering up a sacrifice of Joy and gazing upon the beauty of God.
It is said that once we start to see God as supremely beautiful, we will begin to do justice.
I come across a lot of “evil”, “ugly” people in my daily work. I could not do what I do unless I am able to see beauty within every human I encounter. It is there. I make a daily discipline of gazing upon the beauty of the Lord and in so doing I cannot help but see beauty in all, even the most unloveable.
I am absolutely convinced that it is only 100% pure unadulterated unmerited favour that will ever transform bad behaviour at it’s source. Punishment may work some of the time but it is not sustainable. We cannot answer the problem of violence with violent methods. We need to head the call to put up the sword!
As Lewis says, there are no ordinary humans. The sacredness of God has been imputed to all of humanity. Every being has worth bestowed on them by God. Regardless of record or character, every human has an indelible glory and significance because of who made them and who loves them (Psalm 145:9-17). Even those who turn away from him (Ez 33:11; John 3:16)
Pursuing peace by contending for justice
Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or so distracted or weary that all seems calm. True peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration and forgiveness. Peacemaking is not a passive thing. It is about interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice. Disarming evil without destroying the evil-doer.
It is about a revolution of love big enough to set free the oppressed and oppressors alike. We recognize in the faces of the oppressed our own faces, and in the hands of the oppressors, our own hands.
Peace like most beautiful things, starts small.
Peace, beauty and justice
The three are inextricably linked with one another: The process of true restorative justice is a peaceful process, not punitive. This promotes further peace when upheld and through sacrificial love for one another, brings the most raw beauty that we can ever know, and as the process is strengthened over time, character is built firmly grounded in God with an inner beauty: the beauty of God within us, and in society.
Lord you are coming in glory to bring the fullness of peace, healing and justice.
Teach us to wait when you would have us wait.
Teach us to act when you would have us act.
Fill us up with so much expectation for your coming Kingdom that we cannot help but enact it now.
(From Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals)
By: Sheena Jonker