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Center for Action and Contemplation
God's Restoring Justice
God's Restoring Justice

Jesus’ Work of Shalom

Monday, August 21, 2023

Author and activist Shane Claiborne connects biblical justice with righteousness:   

The word “justice” gets abused and misused. People demand “justice” all the time but have very different things in mind as they call for it. It has been so misrepresented that justice itself might do well to find some new lawyers; it needs better representation.  

For starters, the word for “justice” in the Bible is the same word as “righteousness.” This overlap shows that the central concern of biblical justice was not “getting what you deserve”; rather, it was making right what was done wrong, restoring what had been destroyed, healing the wounds of an offensive act. It was about bringing balance and wholeness back to the community, which is why you often see scales as an icon for justice.  

But the scales can be misleading, since it is not just about balance or even “eye for an eye” justice. Real justice goes much deeper. One of my friends who is a biblical scholar says the best contemporary translation for the ancient notion of “justice/righteousness” is “restorative justice.” [1] 

Sister Mary Katherine Birge offers examples of ways Jesus enacted restorative justice: 

The kingdom of God that Jesus taught, preached, and enacted during his ministry … begins from a conviction that God’s deepest hope for humanity—that we live with God and with one another in relationships that are just—is possible.… 

Jesus lives, teaches, preaches, and demonstrates to all who are willing to listen to him this same kingdom of God, the image of shalom [wholeness, harmony, and peace]. He makes the kingdom of God present every time he performs a miracle of healing (see Mark 1:29–31), drives out evil spirits from someone they possess (see Matthew 9:32–34), and brings back to this life a person who has died (Mark 5:21–24, 35–43; Luke 7:11–17; John 11:1–44). Through his own hospitality and openness to the alien and the enemy … [and] to those who would put him to death …, [Jesus] makes it possible for others to join him in building the kingdom of God, building shalom, in the present age.… 

This is the task of those who would follow Jesus: to live in just relationships with one another, to work at restoring to wholeness those people and relationships that they and others have broken, and to repair as best they can what cannot be restored. This practice of restoring and repairing relationships between people and God and among people themselves is not unlike that in which the contemporary practice of restorative justice engages. Like Jesus’ own work … to bring about the fullness of shalom, through the practice of right relationships and the healing of those people who are “broken,” restorative justice focuses on the present and future needs of the victim, the perpetrator, and society in order to repair what has been broken or stolen from the victim, to bring the perpetrator to acceptance of responsibility, and to mend the threads that hold society together. [2] 


[1] Shane Claiborne, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2016), 249–250. 

[2] Mary Katherine Birge, “Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and Restorative Justice,” in Redemption and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Restorative Justice, ed. Trudy D. Conway, David Matzko McCarthy, Vicki Schieber (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2017), 104, 105–106. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Taylor Wilson, Isha (detail), watercolor and cyanotype. Taylor Wilson, Ruah (detail), print. Izzy Spitz, Chemistry of Self 3 (detail), digital oil pastels. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

The Spirit provides the grace that allows us to include and transform together. 

Story from Our Community:  

A college mentor introduced me to the work of CAC. I am grateful to be discovering the vast riches of Christian contemplative spirituality. As a member of Generation Z, I feel this movement has the potential to really resonate with my peers, who tend to be social justice-oriented, respectful of non-Christian faiths, and distrustful of organized religion. My prayer is that the CAC can meet young people where they are on their path to becoming faith-filled agents for the common good. I have immense admiration for this organization! —Emery M. 

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