by Jason White
In 2001, three months after the 9/11 attacks, Pope John Paul II told the world that there was no peace without justice, and no justice without forgiveness. Justice and forgiveness seem to be sensitive subjects in the Christian faith. On one hand, you have teachings within Christianity which address forgiveness of one another (the Prodigal Son, the Unforgiving Servant, Zacchaeus, the thief on the cross, and Peter’s denial of Christ). On the other, you have the human desire for equal retribution of what a person deserves based on his / her actions. This desire is even supported with Exodus 21:23-25: “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
For me, God’s covenant with his people is renewed with Christ. His promise is renewed. In that, Christ tells us to reform our thinking for this new covenant. In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus tells us to rethink this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Paul also tells us to resist the desire to repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17-19). I think our own ideas of justice often cause us to forget the very gift that we are given in forgiveness. I don’t believe we should enable ourselves to be a doorstep for everyone, nor should accountability for one’s actions be ignored. However, the interesting thing about forgiveness (for me) is that the act of forgiving is more fulfilling and peaceful than being forgiven. All too often, when crimes or sins are committed against us, we enable resentment to take control of us and our actions. We use those sins against us as the basis for manifestation of self-destructive grudges that directly affect our peace of mind and happiness. Often, my selfish and self-serving actions have directly affected those around me in negative ways to the point some feel I don’t deserve reconciliation. For me, justice is served when a path is corrected. Justice is served when wrong action is made correct both in heart and in the spirit. This starts with my own forgiveness towards others and especially forgiveness of myself.