Forgiveness and Justice are not opposites of one another
Living in Cape Town and being a child of the Cape Flats, I have seen the beauty and the richness of life in the communities that I have grown up in. This, however, is tainted by gang violence we hear of, and the bloodshed and killings of our women and children we have seen in the news lately.
With the inability of our police services to get a handle on these violent crimes and the sporadic killing of perpetrators by frustrated communities, I can’t help but wonder if we still have the ability to forgive and if forgiveness is still part of our spiritual makeup.
Peter might have had similar thoughts when he asked Jesus about forgiving a brother. We see that in his question he mentioned: “seven times”, which was much more than the three times that was thought by the Jewish teachers (Matthew 18:21). Jesus comes with the number 70X7. This must have upset their thinking about forgiving, as this is much more than they were used to. Some scholars say that this number is not so much a figure but it is symbolic and it means that we should never stop forgiving.
We would notice that forgiveness was not the question here, but rather, how often should we forgive. The Word of God is clear that we must forgive, as seen even in our text. This command to forgive comes with benefits to the one that forgives his offender. The Bible teaches that our own sins will also be forgiven (Matthew 6:14). Emotionally we free ourselves from being bitter and the benefits of this is that we are less stressed and that have a positive effect on the body.
Justice is not an antonym to forgiveness. We see how Restorative Justice programmes, as part of the methodology employed by Correctional Services, brings the victim and offender face to face and often brings forgiveness and the beginning of healing for both of them. Forgiveness does not replace justice, in fact, it aids individuals to understand the pain they inflicted and then to truly find restoration, even for themselves.
To forgive is not the easiest thing to do, especially when we were deeply hurt, or we lost a loved one or when our pride took a blow. Sometimes the very thing we need most is the very thing we rebel against the hardest; It’s like a good medicine that taste bad.
Heavenly Father we pray that you may forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against is, amen.
To think about: Is forgiveness a viable option in a world where crime against people and especially women and children are so intentional and violent?
Written By: Rev C Swartz, CABSA Churches Channels of Hope Programme Coordinator