Act justly! Wow, justice is a mysterious and difficult concept. How often is justice harder to seek than it should be? Is that why God has reserved justice as his own purview when He speaks of revenge in Romans 12:9: “Revenge is Mine!” How is justice linked to forgiveness? IS justice linked to forgiveness? And what about the “me” factor? It’s pretty clear that when I see someone else wronged, by circumstance, society or an individual I should jump in to seek a just and fair solution. This can apply to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor or visiting the sick.
But what about those times when I feel that I am the recipient or even the victim of an unkind or harmful act? Do I forgive? Do I seek justice? Would justice in this case look very much like revenge? Or is there a path that leads to my own healing, leaving the perpetrator to deal with his or her own consequences?
Often a root cause of divorce can be a betrayal by one partner of the other. The betrayal can take the form of a sexual dalliance, emotional abandonment, abuse or desertion. Those things hurt, they cause real harm and they are certainly unjust. So, really, how do we seek justice in circumstances like these?
We could, and often do, devote much time and energy trying to seek recourse or retribution for the injury. That’s the kind of behavior that can eat us alive, keep the pain at the surface and prolong any healing achieved via a true act of forgiveness. But if justice is to be served, the score must be settled, right? The offending party held accountable. The wrong exposed to the light of day! Or is this approach just the runway to happiness? Maybe we need to simply give up on justice when it comes to our own cause?
Can we stuff our feelings? What if we ignore the injustice and move on. What if we shut out any thought, emotion, conversation or interaction that leads to a memory of the injustice done to us by this other person? That may sound good at first, but the reality is those memories and hurts remain if not processed and treated. So this is not a route to healing we would suggest. The short-term relief can lead to long-term dysfunction. Wounds untreated fester.
There is a third option and it may offer the beginning of a way out. Finding an outlet for actively processing the hurts and wrongs that contribute to your desire for justice may offer the sought for peace and healing. A trusted friend, spiritual advisor or counselor who is willing to listen as you process what you’ve been through can offer just such relief. But it is very important to make sure this trusted person is a friend who is not a “fixer” but a good listener. Talk through the hurt, the pain, the humiliation or whatever other feelings you’ve experienced. Be honest about your emotions. Be honest about what was done to you. And it can be very helpful to focus, in detail, on the aspects of your life that you are thankful for and if your life is better now, reflect on that. Do this as often as you need to. (This will take a really good friend!). What is likely to happen, each time you repeat your story of betrayal and feelings, a little healing will take place. Little by little you will take back control of how you see yourself, moving slowing from victim to victor. Whether or not the offender gets “called out,” repents or apologizes becomes less and less important. What is important is that you are now healing, admitting you were wronged and confident that you are now in a better position. Who knows, someday, you might feel led to truly forgive.
You might notice we didn’t jump to forgiveness as the first step. As we see it forgiveness is one of the Biblical directives most often bandied about as the be-all, end-all solution to any believer’s woes. But true forgiveness is really about one of the toughest places to go. It’s rarely a journey that can take place without a healthy dose of help from the Holy Spirit.
What are your justice stories? How have you been wronged and how are you going about finding healing. We’d love to know.