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December 03, 2021
 
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Quote form the Mennonite Statement of Faith, Article 22

Nov 23 2021

According to Greek and Roman ideas of justice, people should get what they deserve. According to the Bible, justice involves healing and restoring relationships. That is a reason for the special concern for the poor and the oppressed evident in the Bible (Deut. 24:10-22; Matt. 20:1-16; James 2:5).

My thoughts to follow...

The more I learn about ancient Israel compared to other ancient cultures, the more I understand why Judeo-Christian thinking is unique. This, in turn, opens my eyes to the impact the expansion of the Christian church has had on the world (This is not intended to minimalize Judaism's influence, but for most of history, Judaism's influence was relatively 'local', whereas Christianity started immediately as an evangelistic movement, spreading throughout the known world with amazing speed.)  The quote above,  a footnote in the Mennomnite statement of faith, is a case in point.

Judaism was unique in the ancient world in its focus on redemption. One purpose the Law served was to reconcile man with his neighbor; another to reconcile man with God.  Certainly there is some examples of God's justice coming like a consuming fire: the destructions of Sodom and Gomaorrah, the Canaanites, and Jericho.  But in each of these cases, some were spared. And while these accounts get a lot of attention in Sunday school classes, passages like these are a very small part of what is contained in the Old Testament as a whole.  So much more time is spent on laws meant to bring restoration for sins, Psalms that often emphasized repentance and forgiveness, Proverbs addressing how to avoid conflict in the first place, and accounts of individuals, friendships, families, and the entire nation of Israel being restored and redeemed.

This was, for the most part, not the Greek, Norse, Egyptian or Roman mindset.  And it was certainly not the mindsets of their gods.  Their so-called gods were gods of vengence, conquest, warring even among themselves.  The question that strikes me as worth considering further is, "How did this once 'normal' concept of justice become antiquated, obsolete?" It is because of the spread of the God od the Bible.

If anything, I believe humans are a vengeful species.  Again, these foundational beliefs of the pre-Christian world are indicators that this is a fair assumption.  It has been, if not only, certainly primarily, when the Gospel reaches a culture that the mindset shifts to one of grace-bent restoration replaces the mindset of vengence.  After all, if Jesus died to forgive me and restore me to the God I once rebelled against (to say nothing of the people I offended, and those who offended me) how can I do otherwise.

 

Ideas from here:  Baltimore murder trial, death penalty, street shooting in Wisconsin...

to be continued

  

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