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Barely a day goes by without some item of the News featuring an individual or a group seeking justice for some injury or loss from the past. The complaint is usually accompanied by a demand, not just for justice, but for some form of compensation. These campaigns can refer back to events that happened years, even decades ago: people injected with contaminated blood in the 1970s; the Hilsborough Disaster of 1989; the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993; the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017: people who have lost loved ones through murder or carelessness.

The demand is for individuals to be identified and held responsible, or for institutions, often the police and hospitals, to be investigated and reformed, so that ‘this should never happen again’. The whole process of identifying and allocating blame, often involving committees and government appointed inquiries, can take years to produce reports, and cost thousands or millions of pounds.

Why has all this become such a feature of our public life in this country? There are no doubt several reasons. One is simply the age-old thirst for revenge. Those who have suffered, directly or indirectly, because of the malice or incompetence of someone else, demand that those responsible should be found and punished. Another motive, more benevolent, is the desire that other people should not be subjected to the same suffering. But in the end, the demand for justice here and now, to which some people have devoted a large part of their lives, is due to the loss of a belief in the Day of Judgement.

The Christian faith recognises the wickedness of the world and the many evil and harmful things that people do to one another, either deliberately or inadvertently. It also recognises that we are all to some degree under the same condemnation, and that being so, we do well to moderate our wrath and desire for revenge. One day, when Jesus comes again, we shall all appear before the Judgement seat of God, the truth of all our lives will be told, and we shall all receive at God’s hands the just reward or punishment for our deeds. We can be assured that, in the end, Justice will be done for one and all.

Faced with this prospect, perhaps we all need to be in awe, and instead of demanding punishment for the evil-doers plead for God’s mercy for us all. It is a better attitude, not only with our own misdeeds in view, but also for those of others who have been responsible for our sufferings. “Lord, have mercy upon us who have hurt others – and also upon those who have hurt us.”

The fate of us all depends not on how good or bad our lives have been, but on whether we have repented and sought forgiveness, from God and from those to whom we have done wrong. Even the worst of sinners can be assured of God’s love and forgiveness if they repent and turn to Jesus, even at the last minute. Think of the criminal who was crucified with Jesus, who said to him with his last breath, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”. Whatever his guilt was, Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

We may have suffered all sorts of wrongs at the hands of others, known to us or unknown. Rather than pursuing them and our demands for justice, we do better to commend them into the hands of Almighty God, leaving him to do justice and or have mercy, and instead dedicate ourselves to serving God and our neighbours as ourselves for the rest of our earthly lives. In the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, we say, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”


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