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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Crossing Over: Restoration vs Retribution

In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. ~ Acts 27:39-44

Escaping prisoners is certainly a worry for those whose job it is to keep prisoners.

So what else was a soldier to do but kill prisoners so they don't escape? (she said snarkily...)

Imagine the mercy and grace of this centurion. In order to protect one man, he took the risk that others might escape.

And in doing so, save their lives.

We certainly don't live in a time and place where mercy and grace are part of our system of justice. We are willing to kill those who have been found guilty when we know that our judicial system is flawed and that many times innocents have been killed.

We human beings tend me to more in favor of retributive justice - where punishment is required to bring about justice. Instead, Jesus calls us toward restorative justice, which focuses on repairing the harm done by the guilty party and working to restore that person into being a productive member of society.

To restore the relationship between that person, the injured party and the rest of society.

It's certainly human nature to want punishment, and to believe that guilty people should get what they deserve.

I get it. It is a normal human response to want someone to pay for what they've done.

Mercy and grace are hard and not always very convenient, and we certainly aren't going to be getting rid of our retributive justice system any time soon.

But we are called to work toward restoration; called to work for relationship.

Called by the one who offers grace and mercy and restoration to us.

Holy One, help me to work to repair relationships and show grace and mercy to the prisoner. Amen

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