This month's view may offer a radical view of justice for some, but be assured, it is the only way to heal our broken justice system. I pray that God will open your ears to hear what He is saying through many of His servants. That if we will humble ourselves, pray, and turn to God, He will forgive, and heal our land.
Crime and Justice
The purpose of the criminal-justice system is to punish the guilty, whereas restorative justice promotes respect and restoration for victims, offenders, and their communities. The Scriptures declare:
"The authorities are established to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience."2
On the other hand, the criminal is a slave to his or her own pride and rebellion. According to the Bible, the ungodly "...are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They don't care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed."3
A district attorney once told the parole board that I needed a new heart. He didn't seem to believe I had one, but that is exactly what God had given me. Neither the Law of God, nor man's laws can give a new heart to the ungodly. But God's righteous Law can show our sinfulness and need for righteousness.4 There are consequences to sin (even years in prison), but in God's eyes, the punishment for sin was placed on Jesus at the cross. He died and rose again to give eternal life to those who receive Him. By faith, the Holy Spirit makes criminals into new creations, and provides them with the ability to live regenerated lives as productive members of society.
But Who's Listening?
In the early '90s, I wrote an article called "Stop Crime God's Way," addressing the missing factor in our criminal-justice system. God gave us the answer centuries ago, but God's solution for crime is rejected just like His answer is for our personal lives. Listen to the immortal words of Augustine (A.D. 354-430):
"...let your indignation against their crimes be tempered by consideration of humanity: be not provoked by the atrocity of their sinful deeds to gratify the passion of revenge, but rather be moved by the wounds which these deeds have inflicted on their souls to exercise a desire to heal them."
Californians are being forced to listen as their massive-prison population drains the economy. The courts have ruled that prisoners must be released due to inadequate health care. All efforts to reform the criminal population are failing. The authorities are seeing that it takes a power greater than ourselves to fix the problem.
Some Are Listening
In the Los Angeles Times article, "The Time Might Be Right For Kamala Harris," Cathleen Decker reports that Harris, California's next Attorney General, hopes "...to make the criminal-justice system reform criminals rather than lock them up perpetually." Of course, her job limits her from reducing sentences, but from her bully pulpit, she can call for new approaches to heal the broken justice system.
For instance, "Nine days before her election, from the pulpit of Greater Zion Church in Compton, she (Harris) mocked those who called her views 'radical.'" Harris said:
"We need to incorporate the age-old concept of redemtion into the work that we do in the criminal-justice system in California. It is a broken system and there has to be reform... Yes, I am radical in my belief in what we can do to improve the system. How can we change without being caught up and burdened with just a blind adherence to tradition? How can we be smart on crime and not just talk about 'Are you soft? Are you tough?' The question should be, 'Are we smart?'"
Our newly elected Attorney General has a 2009 book out called, "Smart on Crime." The Los Angeles Times reports:
"In it, and during her campaign, Harris argued that criminal-justice money is wasted on the "revolving door" that prison has become as 70% of 120,000 convicts released annually end up being caught committing new crimes."
Let us thank God for opening Kamala Harris' eyes to see the "age-old concept of redemption."
The Age-Old Solution
The age-old problem is sin, resulting in crime. Call it what you want, but mankind was never intended to solve his problems without God. Some would dare say, "This is not relevant. It has nothing to do with the crime problems we're facing." To the contrary, it is relevant to do things God's way, which will make a significant difference in the criminal-justice system whether you acknowledge it or not.
Restorative justice is getting back to doing things the way God does things. He created mankind as one big family. It harms everyone when one is hurt or disconnected from the family. As we will see in the next view, restorative justice is based upon love, respect, care, trust, and humility. These values can only be achieved through faith in the amazing grace of God.
If we fail to see the relevance of redemption through the new birth that Christ offers, the crime problem will increase, the victim will lack healing, the offender will lack forgiveness, and the community will lack restoration.
"Now, you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts."5
A Prayer For You ...
Heavenly Father, Your word urges me, first of all, to pray for all people. I plead for Your mercy upon them, and give thanks. I pray for our President and all others who are in authority to walk in the Spirit of wisdom and righteouness, so that our society can live in peace and quietness, in Godliness and dignity. I know this pleases You, my God and Savior, for You want everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. I know there is only one God and one Mediator Who can reconcile God and people. Open their eyes, I pray, that our Mediator is the man Christ Jesus, Who gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. Help me, Charles, and others to be a light as we spread this message that You gave to the world at this time. I pray in Jesus Name.6
1 2 Cor. 7:14
2 Rom. 13:4b, 5
3 Eph. 4:17-19
4 Rom. 3:20
5 1 Pet. 1:22
6 1 Tim. 2:1-6
Acknowledgement: A special thanks to Sherry for transcribing this months view!