Justice and Forgiveness: Are They One and the Same?

colossians 3:13

The topic of this entry came about because of one of my more interesting conversations with my best friend Nika. I’d like to take this time to honour her since I wouldn’t be writing this entry without her. Nika is a friend that is fiercely loyal. She is also kind and humble and she makes me want to follow her example in many ways. I am grateful for her friendship and steadfast presence in my life.

Nika and I had gotten to chatting about a Christian woman who was tragically raped in her teenage years and who chose not to press charges against her perpetrators. It was a difficult and heavy discussion and from there, the subjects of justice and forgiveness arose.

Are justice and forgiveness one the same?

Forgiveness—does it come at the expense of justice? Does forgiving your perpetrator mean that he or she should no longer suffer the punishment that society and the justice system have decided he or she deserves?

In my opinion, and from a Biblical standpoint, justice and forgiveness are not the same thing. Christians are called to forgive no matter what the cost. This is because Jesus forgave everything and went to the point of taking all our pain and shame and sin and burden upon himself on the Cross. Even before the Cross, he was tortured. What he went through would have killed an ordinary man. God could have chosen to forgive us. But this wasn’t possible because the dichotomy to God is that he is both a forgiving, merciful Saviour but also a just and fair Lord. Someone had to pay the price for sin so that we could be forgiven and pardoned. That was Jesus.

But going back to the topic, I don’t believe that being a Christian means foregoing justice. Forgiving somebody and exonerating them from the law are two completely different things. Yes, God calls us to let go of every shred of bitterness and hatred and unforgiveness and anger, but that doesn’t mean letting another person off scot-free if they’ve committed a crime against you in the eyes of the law. Especially a crime as horrendous and unspeakable as rape. Because then what would society look like in that case? The Bible says that God is a God of order. Chaos would be the first thing to arise if justice wasn’t carried out in any society. I greatly admire the woman mentioned earlier for the extent of her forgiveness, but this is just my two cents.

What are YOUR thoughts on justice and forgiveness?

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