Restorative Justice Sermon Outline
I. Crime destroys relationships.
A. Crime leaves a long trail of victims.
1. Six children are reported abused or neglected every minute.
2. Every hour, 240 homes are burglarized.
3. Every day, 1, 871 women are raped.
B. In our society over 30 million victims are traumatized by crime every year.
C. To most it is obvious that victims and their families are hurt when crime strikes. Not so obvious is the suffering of offenders’ families. When an offender is caught and sent to prison, children are left to suffer, parents to grieve and wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”
D. As part of their jobs, law enforcement officers, judges, and other criminal justice professionals experience the worst humanity has to offer every day. They and their families suffer, too.
E. Since 99 percent of us can expect to be victimized at least once in our lifetime, we all suffer from fear and anxiety due to crime.
II. At the heart of every crime is evil.
A. Evil is what sets crime apart from other traumatic events. It is the very thing that causes victims to question God. It infests hearts with hatred, bitterness, and despair.
B. Only Christ can overcome this evil. Only He can deliver us from the destruction wrought by crime. Only He can heal the brokenhearted and bring hope to shattered lives. But if His people do not bring Him into the fight, millions will continue to suffer every day.
III. Restorative justice is a biblical approach to crime.
A. In order for Christians to be His body in this fight, we have to understand what biblical justice involves and how it compares to America’s current legal system.
B. Amos 5:24 declares, ‘Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
C. God calls us in Micah 6:8 to “Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with Our God.”
1. To “act justly” means we accept that justice flows from the character of God Himself. The Hebrew word for justice is sometimes translated “righteousness” or “holiness.” Therefore to “act justly”” we should be righteous and holy just as God is. Unfortunately, that is not the state in which most Christians live. Instead we tend to ignore those who are suffering in our society. In order to “act justly” we must reconnect ourselves with people who are suffering—even those whom we consider the dregs of humanity–like offenders and their families.
2. Loving mercy means to love tenderly and to show kindness. If we truly love mercy (tenderly), then we will reach out to all those hurt by crime … victims, offenders, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, and family members of these individuals.
3. To walk humbly with our God draws us into the heart of the One Who “loves steadfast love and justice.” Some say, “The path to restorative justice is walked by those who realize that we are all undiscovered offenders.” On this road we find ourselves surprised by the presence of Christ walking alongside us.
IV. God’s Word deals with crime by beginning with the concept of shalom.
A. Simply translated, shalom means peace.” Biblical peace, or shalom, means the existence of right relationships, harmony, wholeness, and completeness. It characterized the ideal relationship between individuals, the community and God. As a result of these right relationships, the community knew security, prosperity, and
blessings from God.
B. Crime destroys shalom. Offenders break the harmony that existed between them, their victims, their communities, and God. The biblical response to crime was to restore right relationships among all affected parties–the victims, the community (whose trust had been broken), and the offender’s relationship with God.
C. Restitution–paying back the victim–was essential to this process. The Old Testament laws frequently called for punishment and restitution. In the New Testament (Luke 19:1-10), Jesus acknowledged that Zacchaeus’s promise to repay fourfold those
he had cheated restored him to the community.
D. Our nation’s current legal system of justice focuses on maintaining public order and punishing offenders. Victims, the community, and God are not part of the equation. Crime is considered an offense against the state, not an injury to the victim or community. It does not require that victims be repaid, or that offenders make things right, or that the community see justice done.
E. In recent years, there has been a movement by the Christian community to reform America’s criminal justice system. Four principles ensure that all those hurt by crime will be restored to a sense of peace or shalom.
1. Crime causes injuries that must be repaired.
2. All parties affected by crime should be included in the response to crime.
3. Government and local communities must play cooperative and complimentary roles.
4. Crime is a manifestation of evil and as such, Christ is needed to overcome its destructive force.
V. The goal of restorative justice is to restore the biblical sense of shalom.
A. The victim’s relationship with God should be just as important as an offender’s. Christians should take steps to help victims turn to God during their time of crisis instead of turning away from Him in hurt and despair. Each of us is critical to this process. We need to be like the good Samaritan and step out of our comfort zones to help those who are hurt and wounded by crime (Luke 10:29-37).
B. Offenders should repent and ask forgiveness of God and the one they offended. Crime throws people out of a state of righteousness. It is a manifestation of evil, and it separates people from God.
C. When people are restored to God, they want to make things right with others–to repair the ham they’ve caused. This restores a sense of shalom to the community and brings a sense of peace to the offender.
D. Evelyn Christenson explains this concept in When God Speaks: “Although God no longer holds us accountable to Himself for the sins He has forgiven, we still are responsible to the human beings we have hurt. After we have taken the steps of repenting and being reconciled to God, we still have the responsibility to the one against whom we have sinned. This is the step of restitution: making amends, making good for the loss or damage.”
E. Without a spiritual reformation in the heart of an offender, real restoration can-not occur. Offenders must acknowledge their actions as sins against God and repent of their crimes. The minds and lives of criminals are changed only when Christ changes their hearts. He is the key to their reformation. Offenders can pay restitution and say they are sorry to their victims, but without asking God to be part of their lives and reconciling with Him, they will continue to cause suffering for others.
F. Offenders cannot get to a place of spiritual reformation unless someone explains to them the healing power and grace of Jesus Christ. We, the body of Christ, are called to do this. (“I was in prison and you visited me” Matt. 25:36 [NIV]).
VI. Restorative justice Ministries uphold these key concepts.
A. Retribution. This is punishment appropriate for the offense, but it is not vindication, continued anger, or retaliation. Those actions tear the victim away from a right relationship with God.
B. Repentance. This is necessary for personal accountability.
C. Reparation. Offenders must repair their relationships with God, their victims, and the community.
D. Restitution. This involves paying back the victim.
Reintegration. Lasting restoration involves reintegration of the offender back into society, through acceptance by other believers and encouragement in their walk with Christ.