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Bible Studies and Meditations on Biblical Themes

The following may be used for group or individual study and reflection on restorative justice in light of biblical teaching.

A justice that reconciles -- new study guide from Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
Marshall, Christopher D.. Offending, Restoration, and the Law-Abiding Community: Restorative Justice in the New Testament and in the New Zealand Experience.
During the past thirty years, a growing conversation about the "restorative" dimensions of justice in contrast to its "retributive" dimensions in addressing crime, wrongdoing, and cultural conflict has emerged around the world. In New Zealand, an initiative known as Family Group Conferencing has virtually replaced the conventional juvenile justice that preceded it. This initiative has inspired many people around the world to adapt that restorative approach in many different settings. The topic of this essay is restorative justice in the New Testament and in the New Zealand experience. I was asked to investigate the possibility of a senior Maori figure from New Zealand accompanying me to the Society of Christian Ethics conference where this essay was first presented so that he or she could speak on restorative justice from an indigenous perspective. Despite my best efforts, that was not possible—which is a shame, really, because the New Testament text on which I here reflect includes features that I suspect indigenous readers are far better equipped to appreciate than are Western biblical scholars, who instinctively bring with them a set of individualistic assumptions that are often ill suited to the cultural horizons of the text itself. What, then, is "restorative justice"? What place does it occupy in the New Zealand justice system? And what has the New Testament got to do with it? (Excerpt).
Heagle, John. Justice rising: The emerging biblical vision.
This book addresses these vital questions by exploring the meaning and evolution of biblical justice and its challenge for contemporary faith communities. It also describes the need for a personal and communal conversion that flows from this vision and its implications for our lives. (excerpt)
Weaver, J. Denny. Christian faith as embodied nonviolence
In this paper Weaver argues that nonviolence is intrinsic to Christian theology, not simply optional or peripheral. Toward this end he explores two theologies: (1) the classic theology of Christendom that, he claims, marginalizes nonviolence and accommodates violence; and (2) a theology that, in his view, manifests the intrinsically nonviolent character of Christian identity. Underscoring these two theologies, Weaver traces two distinct ecclesiologies – an established church ecclesiology and a believer’s church ecclesiology – and key theological implications of each, particularly with respect to violence, justice, atonement, retributive justice, and victimization.
Boers, A P. Justice That Heals: A Biblical Vision for Victims and Offenders.
This book explores the inadequacies of North American criminal justice systems and discusses the alternatives the Bible has to offer. Chapters discuss the anguish of victims, the anguish of offenders, justice in the Old Testament, justice in the New Testament, the purpose of law, a critique of imprisonment, alternatives to prison, restorative responses to victims and offenders, and what Christians can do for restorative justice. Each chapter includes discussion questions and aids to reflection. Ron Claassen includes an epilogue calling for church-based victim offender reconciliation programs. Eddy Hall includes a guide for leading study groups of Boers text.
Boers, A P. Justice That Heals: A Biblical Vision for Victims and Offenders.
This book explores the inadequacies of North American criminal justice systems and discusses the alternatives the Bible has to offer. Chapters discuss the anguish of victims, the anguish of offenders, justice in the Old Testament, justice in the New Testament, the purpose of law, a critique of imprisonment, alternatives to prison, restorative responses to victims and offenders, and what Christians can do for restorative justice. Each chapter includes discussion questions and aids to reflection. Ron Claassen includes an epilogue calling for church-based victim offender reconciliation programs. Eddy Hall includes a guide for leading study groups of Boers text.
Bianchi, H. Biblical Vision of Justice
People use the concept of retaliation to justify a repressive criminal law system, claiming it is found in the Bible. A check of the original Hebrew text shows that where western translators use the words 'retaliation' or 'retribution,' the original words are related to peace. Compared to St. Jerome's translation and the King James Version, only the German translation by Martin Buber is fair and honest. The Old Testament does not say 'retaliate' when crime occurs, but rather recommends peace through conflict resolution processes. An 'eye for an eye' means a person should never demand during the negotiation more than the value of it. The laws of Moses are not rules of behavior, but an indiction of the direction in which individuals should go. The Ten Commandments mean that when people follow God's directions, they will not kill or steal. The criminal law system does not live up to its promise to bring justice, but instead provokes criminality. The legal system should be interpreted according to two Hebrew concepts: 't'sedeka' meaning to speak the truth, and 't'shuvah' meaning to stop something if it is wrong, repair the damage, and take another approach.
Sande, Ken. Is this a time for peacemaking or a time for war?
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 against targets in the United States caused many people around the world to reconsider fundamental questions of right and wrong. Ken Sande writes about those attacks from his perspectives as a Christian and as the president of an organization focused on principles and practices of conciliation and peacemaking. Using passages from the Bible, Sande argues that God charges different people with different responsibilities, and he thus concludes that both peacemaking and war are proper responses to those who perpetrated the attacks.
Van Ness, Daniel W. Shalom.
In this brief essay, Van Ness sketches the fundamental elements of the idea of shalom as found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and connects shalom to understanding and responding to crime. Shalom does not signify an illusory picture of human existence; it points toward an ideal state. This state consists of more than the absence of conflict; it consists of right relationships among people, of fullness and wholeness in community. With respect to the harm caused by crime, shalom points toward community peace through reparation for damages and restoration of broken relationships
Wright, Martin. "From retribution to restoration: a new model for criminal justice."
Some biblical references on the use of reparation.
Van Ness, Daniel W. Forgiveness
In this Good Friday meditation, Daniel Van Ness reflects on forgiveness, love, and restorative justice. He does so with particular reference to significant traumatic events and circumstances, such as post-apartheid South Africa, genocide in Rwanda, and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on targets in the United States. Without finding or offering easy answers, he explores what it means to love our enemies and forgive those who wrong us, as Jesus in the New Testament commands his disciples.
Booth, Cherie. Themes of Restorative Justice Found in the Story of Zacchaeus
He may be a Sunday school favourite, but Zacchaeus was also a master in white collar theft. Tax collectors were outcasts in society - not just because they were collecting money for the Roman Empire, but because they appear to have been lining their own pockets at the same time. And as a chief tax collector we can assume that Zacchaeus was masterminding the whole racket. In calling him down from the tree, Jesus is engineering a meeting between Zacchaeus and the people he has wronged. Initially, the crowd is outraged with Jesus for befriending a man whose behaviour has spread fear and mistrust even amongst those he hasn't stolen from directly. And who can blame them? (abstract)
Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. Where Love and Justice Meet.
Very often justice and love are understood as distinct and even opposing values and aims. On the one hand, justice is commonly depicted as harsh judgment, as punishment without mercy.On the other hand, love is perceived as sentimentality where wrong-doing is simply overlooked without consequence. The Bible offers a different view of justice and love. Both are integral parts of God’s character. God is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:7; 2 Timothy 4:8).At the same time, God is love (1 John 4:8).How then does the Bible define justice and love? What does it mean that justice and love both characterize God? What do justice and love mean for us? Where do they meet in our world? In this study, we will explore these issues and questions.We will look at what it means for followers of Jesus to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with…God” (Micah 6:8). We will also pursue what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matthew 22:39. (excerpt)
Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. What is restorative justice?
This study explores key principles of restorative justice including encounter, amends, inclusion, and reintegration. The study also suggests how to apply those concepts in our lives.
Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. Philemon: A Case Study in Peacemaking.
This study explores issues relating to victims, offenders and the impact of crime by reflecting on Paul’s short letter on behalf of the ex-offender Onesimus. The study is suitable for individual reflection and for group discussion.
Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. Steps to Reconciliation.
This study explores 5 key elements for conflict resolution and reconciliation. These elements are: 1) taking responsibility; 2) Confession and Repentance; 3) Forgiveness; 4) Making Amends; and 5) Reconciliation.
Lawless, Charles Jr.. Restorative Justice Mentoring Bible Study for Offenders and Ex-offenders of all Ages.
The LifeChange mentoring Bible study by Dr. Charles Lawless, Jr., was written especially for restoring juvenile offenders through responsible Christian living. The LifeChange mentoring experience is also being used with male and female adult offenders and ex-offenders, as well as with Christians of all ages in the local church setting. (distributors description)
Episcopal Church. Our Covenant with God:A Bible Study on Restorative Justice.
Our society’s criminal justice system -- like crime itself -- reflects and embodies a spirit of disrespect, dishonesty, force, domination, and control. The alternative, biblical way of responding to crime -- restorative justice -- is all about relationships. Healthy relationships are those based on respect, truth-telling, compassion (literally, “suffering with”), and solidarity. When a crime has taken place, a crime victim, his or her violator, and the local community are all in a place of great suffering, and whatever their relationships have been, they are now broken. All three parties, and all their relationships, need hope and healing. But this is prevented by an adversarial legal system, a political culture, and a mass media which portray victims and offenders, and those who care about one group or the other, as totally separate groups of people who are one another’s enemies. Jesus Christ -- who embodies the status of both lawbreaker and victim -- breaks down this mythology and binds up the brokenhearted and the broken relationships, if we will let him. He treats all with respect and compassion, and he always tells the truth. Thus he offers to all of us -- when we are victims and when we are violators -- the hope and healing we all need. The community of faith, made up of his followers, is called to do likewise. A major focus of Christian worship, education, preaching, and discipleship must be about helping those who would be his followers experience the beginning of what it means to be in compassion, solidarity, and respectful relationship with the victims, the violators, and the community. (excerpt)
Wildman, David. Jesus' Path to Restoring Justice.
Each year Christians around the world remember and celebrate the events of Holy Week. Jesus gave his life to heal the brokenness of our world and to restore God’s reign of love and justice for all. Yet today our world remains broken and divided by violence, fear and injustice. The dramatic movement that week from the peaceful palm-waving procession on Sunday to Jesus’ violent execution by the state on Friday poses disturbing questions. What triggered the state’s criminal justice system to change its policies from tolerating peaceful protest to restoring public order by force and cruel punishment? What hopes, what fears, what sense of justice did the crowd have that week? What transforms their hope-filled songs of "Hosanna!" into angry shouts of "Execute!" in just five days? (Excerpt)
Restorative justice and the story of Cain and Abel
from Ellen's entry on Fidgety Feet: I'm taking a class in restorative justice, which I was interested in, but wished I could have taken it in-class with a certain professor at TUFW. I was thinking the online class wouldn't be as good. I have learned so much in 6 lessons; it has made me read the Bible differently, understand some of the words and teachings of Jesus differently and it makes characteristics that I knew about God jump out of the pages of familiar stories. I feel like I am reading these for the first time! The story of Cain and Abel. It's pretty short; Chapter 4 of Genesis. Cain kills his younger brother Abel, Cain is marked and has to roam the earth forever.

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