I believe the intent of Reconciliation as taught in the Christian Church is to be restorative —returning the individual to God, and if necessary, to a right relationship to their community, their world, and to their truest and best selves. “Confessing” what we have done wrong is an important first step, but true repair and restoration take much more than a simple apology. It means taking the example of Jesus seriously and thinking about how we can make all the justice and reconciliation we seek restorative to our relationships, our culture, our environment, and to the world.
Howard Zehr has written foundational texts on restorative justice, including Justice Changing Lenses: Restorative for Our Times. In the 25th anniversary edition of this text, Zehr includes practices to help us live a restorative way of life. The following “Ten Ways To Live Restoratively” provide timely and practical guidance to all Christians, and maybe most especially, to church leaders trying to lead like Jesus in a divisive and strife ridden culture.
Ten Ways to Live Restoratively
- Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.
- Try to be aware of the impact—potential as well as actual—of your actions on others and the environment.
- When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm—even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.
- Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.
- Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.
- View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.
- Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them.
- Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.
- Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.
- Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism and other examples of systemic injustice.
Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times (Herald Press: ©1990, 2015), 257—258.
Posted on November 17, 2020