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Justice and the Church

Church in Eastern EuropeHe has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Justice is close to the heart of God, and his people are expected to exhibit that "family trait". There are remarkable stories of how societies have changed when the church became passionate that justice be done to the least in society. Wilberforce's campaign to abolish the slave trade in England is but one example.

Nevertheless, sometimes the Christian community is part of the problem. Often this is because problems of injustice take place out of sight. And when injustices become visible, solutions are not readily apparent.

This section has resources that will help. First is a series of Bible studies prepared initially for Restorative Justice Week, but pertinent at any time. Second is a declaration on Justice and Reconciliation adopted by Prison Fellowship International at two international gatherings and combined, with scriptural references, by CJR. Finally, are resources to help with engaging local churches in problems of crime and justice.

Folder Restorative Justice Bible Studies — by james — last modified Mar 28, 2009 10:46 AM The Centre for Justice and Reconciliation has prepared these Bible studies reflecting on the relationship of restorative justice with Biblical conceptions of justice and conflict resolution.

Folder On Justice and Reconciliation — by james — last modified Mar 28, 2009 10:49 AM Two declarations debated and approved in PFI international gatherings dealt with the topics of justice and of reconciliation. After their adoption, CJR merged the two and produced them with scriptural references as a resource to national affiliates and to others interested in the topic.

Folder Working with Churches — by CJR Admin — last modified Mar 28, 2009 10:51 AM This is a collection of manuals and guides to assist local church bodies in responding to crime, prisoners, victims and injustice in their communities.

Seek Justice
This website contains some of Jonathan Burnside’s work exploring the relationship between law, theology and criminology from theoretical and applied perspectives, beginning with Relational Justice: Repairing the Breach (1994, Waterside Press). (description from website).
Just Deserts or Shalom. Henk Smidsra (2008). Justice Reflections. Issue 17.
The enduring impact of all of this spiritual formation [from childhood], is that I believe that the life and work of Christ is not just simply for personal salvation, for the future, or for pious private living, but it has real-life historical, structural, reconciling, implications in all areas of life, even in the development and implementation of criminology in the justice system where I work today. (excerpt)
Konkel, August. Biblical Understanding of Justice and Mercy. (Restorative Justice Online). 2003
Justice and mercy are the very essence of understanding the character of God. They must be understood truly, or an understanding of God will be distorted. At the same time they cannot be understood fully, for they are in some sense the antithesis of each other. To demand justice is to leave no place for mercy; to grant mercy is to yield justice.
Konkel, August. Biblical Perspective on Prison. (Restorative Justice Online) 2003.
The word prison occurs many times in the scriptures. Yet what we mean by prison would have been shocking to the peoples of ancient cultures. They could never have conceived of what we do with prisons.
Grounding Justice in Reality: Theological Reflections on Overcoming Violence in the Criminal Justice System. (Prison Fellowship New Zealand) 2002.
Christians who take seriously Jesus’ call to non-violence and who believe in the power of the gospel to overcome violence and create genuine shalom must learn to apply these convictions to criminal justice policy and practice as much as to international militarism and human rights abuses. For if we are in any measure to overcome violence, we must employ the principles of peacemaking justice in all areas of social life, including the criminal justice system. With respect to our handling of crime, this means challenging the violent logic of retributive justice, which undergirds much of our present system, and embracing the principles and priorities of “restorative justice”. (Excerpt) Author: Christopher Marshall.
A Christian Response to Crime: Do we need to develop a new Spirituality? (2009)
In this article, Douw Grobler, executive director of PF South Africa, discusses the need to develop a new spirituality that focuses on healing, reconciliation, and transformation.
Crime, Christians and the Spirit of Punishment
This paper discusses the attitude of New Zealanders and New Zealand Christians to issues of prisons and punishment, and the role of the State in shaping public opinion. It also speculates on why, as a Christian community, we lack a clearly enunciated Christian worldview on punishment and justice, based on biblical principles.
Satisfying Justice:Victims, Justice and the Grain of the Universe
In biblical and Jewish tradition, care for the poor and weak – for those in situations of extreme need or vulnerability, such as widows and orphans, immigrants and prisoners, the sick and the destitute – is one of the primary obligations laid on God's people. The biblical writers repeatedly declare God's unwavering concern for the poor, and God's insistence that those on the margins of the covenant community be afforded special provision and protection. An aspiration for what we call “social justice” permeates biblical law, and its neglect by those in positions of authority provokes enraged protests from the Hebrew prophets.
Saving New Zealand – the Role of the Church and Faith Based Organisations in Criminal Justice
The first speaker at this Congress, Brian Winslade, National Leader of the Baptist Union, provided the inspiration for this paper. His description of Christianity as a “subversive activity” and the idea that we do our best work “under the radar” struck accord with my experience over the last decade, in dealing with issues of law and order, and criminal justice, as it relates to prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims and their whänau/families. His call for us to “Be the church” and become “local communities of transformation” is a recurring theme in the strategic direction being taken by Prison Fellowship New Zealand over the next decade.
Punishment and Sentencing: Courts and Community. A Question of Attitude
In our responses and attitudes as Christians to the problem of crime and the depravity of criminal behaviour and its perpetrators, we surely have to begin by acknowledging that every person, criminal or not, is of such value to God that there is rejoicing amongst the angels, Jesus tells us, when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10).
Restorative Justice : Forgiveness and Terrorism
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Mark 11:13
Figs Out of Season
Dan Van Ness PFM Devotions October 10, 2001
The Significance of Christianity in 'Reforming' Prisoners
This study investigates whether Christianity has a reformative influence in the lives of prisoners who consider themselves ‘genuine’ Christians. Interviews were conducted with forty-five prisoners and fifteen ex-prisoners (who had been released from prison as Christians) - all high/medium-security inmates with long sentences.
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