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The Bridge Between Us

I’ve been learning lately that justice is very multifaceted. There are many different ways to look at, define, and apply justice. While looking to learn a bit more about justice, specifically about biblical justice, I came across an article that talked about two kinds of justice (primary and rectifying), and it really got me thinking. It explained the difference. Primary justice means living in right relationships. Rectifying justice deals with immediate needs and any wrongdoing. Thus, if people lived in right relationships with each other, rectifying justice would not be needed. Now, to relate this to Aboriginal people in Canada: I think both primary and rectifying justice are currently being done they’re out of balance. Rectifying justice happens when you are attending to the social needs of Aboriginal people, for example, poverty and substance abuse. There are countless programs out there (and maybe not enough?). Rectifying justice is also needed for the wrongs that have been done to Aboriginal people like Indian Residential Schools, land and treaty rights’ violations, laws, and the list can go on. As for primary justice, there are some Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people who are in right relationships. But not enough. Shouldn’t more people be living in right relationship with each other? Shouldn’t we seek out healthy relationships with each other to set the base for rectifying justice? I think primary justice is even more needed than rectifying justice.  

What about reconciliation? How does reconciliation fit into justice? After further thought, I would say that reconciliation is taking another step closer to our neighbour, being vulnerable, open to the hardships of rectifying justice, and contending with God throughout the whole process. Rectifying justice can lead us into relationship, and therefore into primary justice, if God is invited into the process. It is inviting God into the relationship that makes it harder or more personal so that relationships can develop.  

This is the step I would argue is needed more right now in terms of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It would be easy to administer rectifying justice to strangers and keep a closed heart, go back home to where it is safe, and keep God at a distance. But reconciliation, I would argue, means to invite God into the relationship with the people who are on the receiving end of rectifying justice. Upon forming a relationship, it would be possible that primary justice could be done. Once we are in relationship, we will be able to see the gifts in the other person and able to accept the blessings they have to offer. If we didn’t know the other person we wouldn’t know or perhaps accept their gifts or blessings that could have come our way. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul talks about how God gives gifts to everyone and while each gift is different, each gift comes from God. Paul also talks about how the body has different parts but each part is important. Again, to relate this to Aboriginal people, all Aboriginal people have a gift to offer and a blessing to give. Not building towards a right relationship with Aboriginal people is akin to denying their gifts and blessings as in the past.

While the goal is primary justice, or right relationships with our neighbours, we live in a world where there will always be a place for rectifying justice. It is reconciliation that bridges these two kinds of justice together, bringing God on that journey. The question is, how can we encourage congregations and people in the pews to journey on that bridge?

[Image: Flickr user Phil Roeder]

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