When you think about justice, what do you think about? Is it the idea of "bringing someone to justice"? Making someone pay for something they did?
In Scripture, there are 134 references to "justice," but there are also times that I think I fear what true justice means. From my perspective, justice generally means that someone why has wronged me or someone I know has to pay for what they did. If they steal the radio out of my car, I want to hunt them down and make them replace it or pay for a new one. If they hurt me in some way, they should be hurt back. This concept behind this is called "retributive justice." Basically, it's the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth." Now, it should be noted at this point that the eye for an eye justice recommended in the Old Testament was actually an improvement on the methods of justice at the time where if you committed a crime against someone, not only you but your entire family would be liable for it.
The point about this kind of justice is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the offender's heart. If someone wrongs me and I hunt them down to make them make restitution, the heart of that person is not changed. In fact, in today's world, this might harden it even further. But what if the concept of justice was not about retribution, but about restoration. Of course, incumbent on this is the idea of a redemptive community to be restored to, but that's another topic for another day. What I have to understand is that the way of life that Jesus prescribes and describes in the Sermon on the Mount is a way of life that is absolutely contrary to how we generally think about things in this life. It's the idea that the justice God pursues is not intended to alienate people or harden their hearts. It's about the reconciliation that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.
Retributive Justice is ultimately a selfish and self serving method of doing things; an ideology of Restorative Justice is one that would go a long way toward bringing the radical, world changing teachings of Jesus into a sharp focus for both His followers and those who don't.
So the question naturally is: How does this play out? What would this look like for Jesus' followers to really, truly live out the idea of Restorative Justice?