From adversaries to peacemakers

When hostages Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland were released this past November, Mr. Waite reported their kidnappers asked forgiveness for what they had done. A hostage-taker said that hostage-taking was the wrong thing to do. One has to feel that more than shifting political pressures contributed to that conclusion. Surely the lives of the hostages themselves—their prayer, integrity, quiet strength—communicated something about true justice and its foundation in love.

In a time when humanity seems acutely aware of injustice, we are in special need of learning more about the relation between love and justice. We all need a higher means of redressing wrongs than by injuring others. The words of Christ Jesus, "Love your enemies," speak to that need with a fresh power. This love isn't an angry or frightened coexistence with someone who has done what more than justifies the label "enemy." It is a refusal to operate within the framework of division and hatred, to be thrown down from the pinnacle of an understanding of man's spiritual nature. This is the love that God, divine Love, fosters in His creation. It is a transforming power even when some may resist it.

The New Testament is a handbook on that love, its spiritual underpinnings, and its liberating effect. From the depths of the prison where the Romans unjustly shoved Paul and Silas came the sound of their songs of praise and prayer to God. These efforts produced more than comfort; the prison doors opened and the prisoners' manacles were somehow broken. When the prison keeper woke from sleep, he was ready to kill himself, believing his prisoners had broken out. But they hadn't left the prison, and Paul stopped the suicide attempt. The result was that the man and his household ended up "believing in God." Later that day when Paul and Silas were officially freed, even the Roman magistrates had to acknowledge—if grudgingly—their civil rights.

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A more spiritual framework for justice
January 13, 1992

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