Our previous post introduced the idea of restorative justice. Here are three applications of restorative justice.
Here is a common scenario Western missionaries face: When I confronted a national believer over the problem of _________, he felt shamed and the relationship was severed. Perhaps I could have been more graceful, but it would have been wrong to not address what he did.
Without ignoring issues of sin, a restorative view of justice situates wrongdoing in the broader context a relationship. The tendency of honor-shame cultures is to ignore the issue to preserve the relationships—all love, no truth. The tendency of Western cultures is to ignore the relationship to address the issue—all truth, no love.
Since our response to problems typically stems from our definition of justice, learning the principles and practices of “restorative justice” may help Western missionaries navigate cultural conflicts. When is justice accomplished: when the wrong is punished, or when the people are restored? Your answer to this question leads to different approaches for resolving conflict.
With zero pretense of having any parenting advice to offer, here is one way “restorative justice” has influenced parenting for me. Let’s say, one kid purposefully disobeyed mom’s instruction. My common parenting response was to discipline her, offering a clear explanation of why her actions merit such a punishment. And then I’d require she apologize verbally and request forgiveness. (Dr. Dobson would be proud!)
Now I try to respond more restoratively, “You behavior broke your relationship with mom, and it’s your responsibility to fix the relationship. Can I help you do that?” I’m not so much a judge enforcing the demands of justice, but a mediator reconciling offended parties. The focus is on restoring the relationship (which on occasion does require punishing wrongdoing, but always as a means of relational restoration). I’m not tracking the data on this one, but I think it works better.
The death of Christ “was to show God’s justice, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his justice at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:25-26).
In terms of theology, Jesus’ death demonstrates the justice of God and proves God is just. But how? A fuller definition of justice allows for a more complete view of the cross. Not only does Jesus’ remove the penalty of sins (retributive), it puts the relationship back right (restorative). Without getting into various atonement theories, I’ll just point out how common atonement theories prioritize the retributive view of justice that characterizes the Western legal system. The presuppositions and assumptions of Western atonement models are mostly retributive in nature. The controlling metaphor for explaining the cross’s saving significant is judicial. This is not a critique, but a cultural analysis of some rarely-examined assumptions…and a possible reason why the traditional Western gospel presentation is “culturally illogical” in global cultures.
The gospel is a message of restoration/reconciliation! Restoration (with God and people) is an essential function of the cross. How would you explain Jesus’ sacrificial death using the logic and values of restorative justice? Here is how one missionary explained it:
For he is our peace… [he] has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. …to create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (Eph 2:14-17)
4- Peace-Buiding Initiatives
And in the spirit of Proverbs 6:16 (“6, no 7…”), here is an bonus application for restorative justice—”Second Chances for Juvenile Crimes,” a small town peace-building initiative.
Hopefully these prompt some ideas. What do you see is a value or application of restorative justice? Please share below.
Read more in the series “Putting Honor Into Action.”