How shall we satisfy our thirst for justice and calm our passion for revenge so as to practice forgiveness? The very idea of forgiveness implies an affirmation of justice. The Lord’s Prayer makes this plain. When we pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’ (Matthew 6:12), we imply that we owe God something and that other people owe us something. What we owe and what is owed to us can be established only by applying the principle of justice.
But if we desire justice, then why should we practice forgiveness? Because strict restorative justice can never be satisfied! Since “no deed can be annihilated,” as Nietzsche said, and within the framework of justice, guilt is eternal and therefore, concludes Nietzsche, “all punishment, too, must be eternal.” In the framework of restorative justice, no reconciliation is possible for it will not set things right for the tormented.
A family that has lost its husband/father/children, to unjust violence, feels a void. The desire for revenge is not just an irrational passion of a sick or maladjusted psyche; it flows from the need to restore something missing, a sense of physical and emotional integrity that is shattered by violence.
How then do we satisfy our thirst for justice and calm our passion for revenge so as to practice forgiveness?
For the followers of crucified Christ we bring our rage before God. We place before God in prayer both our unjust enemy and our own vengeful self face to face with a God who loves and does justice. In the light of the justice and love of God revealed in the crucified God, hate recedes and the seed is planted for the miracle of forgiveness.
This in turn will make the search for justice for all possible.