Justice Work and Healing Work: Are They The Same?

There is a sense that healing is a part of justice. “Justice involves setting things right that are estranged, broken, or oppressive. It is especially concerned for the weak and vulnerable in society,” (Allen, Poured Out, 101). The healing of estranged or broken relationships is a mark of God’s justice coming to the world. When Godly flourishing is no longer being experienced, there exists a need for healing.

This overlap is seen strongly in both restorative justice and redemptive justice. “Restorative justice uses problem-solving techniques that emphasize reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships between victims and oppressors,” (Cannon, Social Justice Handbook, 37). This rebuilding of relationships is healing. Brokenness of social relationships was part of the curse in Genesis 3. As we practice restorative justice, we are partnering with God in the healing of creation so that we move closer and closer to the fullness of the kingdom of God where the curse of sin and brokenness is no more.

As we practice restorative justice, we are partnering with God in the healing of creation so that we move closer and closer to the fullness of the kingdom of God where the curse of sin and brokenness is no more.

“Redemptive justice is rooted in the biblical concept of redemption. Redemptive justice is very similar to restorative justice, but places less emphasis on the needs of the victim and instead focuses on the redemption of the oppressor,” (Cannon, Social Justice Handbook, 37). Our social relationships are not just the relationships between ourselves and others, it is also our relationship with ourselves. We see this in Jesus’ identification of the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matt 22:39b). Our love for others and our love for ourselves are intimately related. As the common phrase goes, “hurt people hurt people.” The truth is that we are all hurt people and we all hurt people.

When we begin to heal our own wounds, when we open ourselves up to the redemptive healing and justice of God, that restoration is also brought into our relationship with others. Stephen Seamands identifies this process through the lens of the cross. “Bringing our hurts to the cross, then, is not a quick-fix method of healing. Deep wounds require deep healing. And deep healing involves a slow and difficult process…this means choosing the way of acceptance rather than denial, confronting instead of concealing. It also means choosing costly forgiveness over resentment and bearing unjust suffering over retaliation,” (Seamands, Wounds that Heal, 12-13). Redemptive healing leads to restorative justice because healing and justice are a way of life, not just actions that we take. When we allow ourselves to be healed by God we begin to desire healing in all of our relationships.

Although justice work and healing work go hand in hand, there are differences between the two. Justice is concerned with the flourishing of creation; healing is concerned with the mending of brokenness. Justice existed before the fall and will continue in new creation; healing only exists now, in between the fall and new creation. This is why healing is part of justice and not the other way around. For creation to flourish, creation must be healed; thus, healing work is one avenue of justice work.

But in new creation, healing work will be completed and we will experience a state of justice and health. We are promised a future of well-being and eternal life in the presence of God. This is the promise of the kingdom of God. And this is the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated through his life, death, and resurrection. As Christians, we believe that we live in the overlap of the present creation of sin and brokenness and the new creation of justice and eternal life.

The breaking in of God’s kingdom allows for justice and healing work that the present creation deems impossible. It allows for love towards those who hate you. It allows for the working of goodness even towards those who do you harm. It allows for peace instead of war. It allows for the gift of life and health and justice between groups that have experienced hate and destruction. God’s kingdom provides both the hope of a healed creation full of justice and the means for bringing about justice and healing now.

The breaking in of God’s kingdom allows for justice and healing work that the present creation deems impossible.

This overlap means that most of the work Christians do in present creation flows out of the combination of justice and healing. “Prompted by desire to emulate the compassion of Jesus and his healing ministry, Christians have launched countless agencies, institutions, and grassroots movements directed towards healthcare,” (Porterfield, Healing in the History of Christianity, 5).

This is healing and justice. In the fallen state, sickness and death fight against human flourishing by breaking down humanity. When we take on Jesus’ compassion we are compelled to fight back against all that hiders human flourishing, building back up what has been torn down. We do all of this within the faith and hope of our resurrected life where our healing has been made complete and where we are able to flourish in the continuous justice of God.

When we take on Jesus’ compassion we are compelled to fight back against all that hiders human flourishing, building back up what has been torn down.

Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!

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