Shane was a 12-year-old girl being asked to summon a courage that most of us can hardly imagine. She would be testifying in court against the person who sold her.
When Shane’s parents separated, she and her little brother ran away from home and lived on the streets. While there, she was tricked by a woman who convinced her to go with foreigners. This woman told her she would not be hurt and would be given a large sum of money. This began a pattern of her being sexually exploited for the financial benefit of this pimp. Eventually, Shane refused to go, reported her pimp to the police, and was rescued.
That moment in the courtroom would be the hardest part of her battle of justice.
Justice that day for Shane meant seeing the people who had perpetrated these crimes against her receiving their due punishment. But, the biblical idea of justice is so much more. According to the Bible, justice is much deeper and richer than just bad people “getting what’s coming to them.”
There’s a well-known statement of Jesus, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”
“Righteousness” is not a word we often hear or use outside of the context of the Bible and the church. And even when we hear it there, I’m not sure we really have a handle on what it means. We often think of righteousness merely as moral purity or personal holiness. As if Jesus was saying , “seek first the kingdom of God and his moral purity.”
I think we understand the word “righteousness” so much better when we think of it as, “things being set right.” I love the way that the Voice translation captures the force of this word when it translates Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His restorative justice….”
Shane is now experiencing restorative justice. She lives at My Refuge House, an aftercare home that meets her needs in a holistic way. She receives medical treatment, psychological therapy, education, a safe home, healthy relationships, and spiritual nurturing. This is a girl who now sees that she has great potential. She dreams of becoming an engineer one day.
What does it look like for people like you and me to seek first restorative justice in our everyday lives?
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" In God’s kindness and sovereignty, he allows his children to seek justice for those who are oppressed and help see things “set right.” The issues of the world are calling. Whether it be racism, poverty, lack of education, unclean water, violence against women or human trafficking, there are needs all around us.. How are you choosing to respond to the needs of others?
We’ve all been entrusted with gifts, passion & resources, however great or small, to use for God’s glory and the good of our neighbor. It may not be something grand according to the world’s terms, but all of us are called to invest something of ourselves in God’s mission to rebuild the broken places around us and bring about restorative justice.