Seeking for Justice

This was the title and theme of a sermon I preached recently. The two texts were Micah 3 and Matthew 25:31-46. I like the results enough to post the highlights on here for discussion.

As I did my homework for the sermon, I discovered that there are three basic forms of the concept of justice.

elijah___the_ravens1. Distributive Justice Concerned with the fair allocation of resources among members of a community.

• What should be distributed?

• Who should receive the things distributed?

• How should these things be distributed?

The principle says that every person should have the same level of material goods and services. It is most commonly justified on the grounds that people are owed equal respect and that equality in material goods and services is the best way to give effect to this ideal.

Because societies have a limited amount of wealth and resources, a question arises as to how those benefits ought to be distributed.

2. Retributive Justice Retributive Justice is a matter of giving people their just desserts.

  • In cases of wrongdoing, someone has lost certain benefits, while someone who does not deserve those benefits has gained them.
  • Punishment will set this imbalance straight.

Central to retributive justice are the notions of merit and dessert. This means that people who work hard deserve the fruits of their labor, while those who break the rules deserve to be punished. People deserve to be treated in the same way that they voluntarily choose to treat others.

Retributive justice is in this way backward-looking. Punishment is warranted as a response to a past event of injustice or wrongdoing. It acts to reinforce rules that have been broken and balance the scales of justice.

3. Restorative Justice

•Restorative justice is concerned with healing victims’ wounds, restoring offenders to law-abiding lives, and repairing harm done to interpersonal relationships and the community.

  • It seeks to involve all stakeholders and provide opportunities for those most affected by the crime to be directly involved and to respond to the harm caused.
  • A restorative justice process aims to empower victims to participate effectively in dialogue with offenders.

Victims take an active role in what takes place, as well as defining the responsibilities and obligations of offenders. Offenders also participate in this exchange, to understand the harm they have caused to victims, and to take active responsibility for it.

While fulfilling these obligations may be painful, the goal is not revenge, but restoration of healthy relationships between individuals, and in communities that have been most affected by the crime.

What is interesting is the correlation to the biblical accounts of Justice. It doesn’t take much work to fit the biblical narratives into one or more of these categories.

I found three four goals of justice as I worked through the materials:

  • Restoring the equilibrium of community (whether it is local or international)
  • Restoring the victim(s) from whatever level of injustice or oppression that they suffer to a proper relationship with God and others;
  • Restoring the oppressor/victimizer to a proper relationship with God and others, especially their victims;
  • Restoring the community and creation to its proper role and relationship with God.

By the way, the image at the top is from a painting by the Chinese Christian artist He Qi, called Elijah and the Ravens. His gallery is here. Take a look