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What is restorative justice?

Embarrassed may be translated "ashamed", "flustered", "disconcerted", or even "bewildered" or "confounded".  Lots of ways to say the same thing, but each with just a tiny hint of a different meaning.  If I said I am not ashamed of the gospel I might just be trying to tell you it doesn't make me hesitant to share it, or take action on what it says.  If I were to tell you I am not flustered by it, you might get the idea I am not "put off" or "put down" by what I read there.  If I were to tell you I don't find myself disconcerted by the gospel message, then you might just get the impression I am not "mixed up" when I read its words, but in fact find a kind of power to put at peace what is already so mixed up within me.  You see, we all have a slightly different approach to the gospel each time we take it in - the most important thing to remember is that we are not to shy away from it!  No matter how we are "experiencing" it at the moment, it is and always will be God's power to save every person who believes!

For I am not the least bit embarrassed about the gospel. I won’t shy away from it, because it is God’s power to save every person who believes: first the Jew, and then the non-Jew.  You see, in the good news, God’s restorative justice is revealed. And as we will see, it begins with and ends in faith. As the Scripture declares, “By faith the just will obtain life.”  (Romans 1:16-17 VOICE)

As I was listening to my favorite radio station on the way to work yesterday, a woman called who was on the verge of tears. She shared the "encouraging story of the day" - something the radio station does each morning during my commute.  Most of the time, I get pretty jazzed to hear what is going on in people's lives, but this time the conversation made me think about the "image" of what the host of the show was actually asking the individual who called. She shared how she had been "away from Jesus" for a good many years, just doing her own thing, even though she "knew better".  She had recently experienced a tugging at her heart strings to "get her life back together" and as she put it, she was "trying to get things right with God" again.  As the host asked the question, I heard her pause and she answered in a way I hear so many people answer.  The question?  "If you were standing at the door of heaven right now, and God asked you why he should let you into his kingdom, what would you say?"  The answer from the woman caller:  "Well, I'd tell him I have been trying to get things together in my life..."

So many times we think an "open door" to God's presence is about what we "do" to get there, especially when we have turned our back on God for a period of time and are out there doing whatever it is we felt like doing for that period of time.  It isn't about what we do or have done - but ALL about what Jesus has done ALREADY for us.  His actions on our behalf HAVE been done, are CONTINUALLY enough to cover ALL our sin, even when we wander away for a while or "take a vacation" from living as we "know we should".  When we are living in a way which is kind of self-centered and focused on the "wrong stuff", we don't want to get into the Word - because the Word might just bring a little conviction and that makes us uncomfortable.  There is a difference between feeling discomfort over our actions and being ashamed of the gospel, though!  Just because it makes us feel like we need to do something differently in our lives doesn't mean the message "flusters" us, or "confounds" us. It simply means the message is doing what it was intended to do - lovingly show us we need a Savior.

If we need a Savior, then it is because we haven't been able to do enough to save ourselves! Ponder that one for a bit and you might just recognize how even the convicting power of the Word is God's way of showing himself powerful ON OUR BEHALF, not against us!  We need to stop considering conviction as a means of being "punished", or of a means to "punish" ourselves.  Conviction is a part of God's love expressed toward us - he cares so deeply for our needs he lovingly wants to bring correction into our lives, helping us refocus, and then drawing us closer to his heart until we don't want to leave his presence ever again!  We ALL slip up - we ALL feel conviction - we ALL fall into traps of sinful experiences on occasion. Some of us choose to "live in them" a little longer than others, but the same means "OUT" of where we find ourselves exists - the blood of Jesus.  

I think this is what our writer had in mind in this passage - conviction is a means to reveal God's "restorative justice".  In essence, he is saying our sin has been wrong - we need to confess it as such.  Then we need to trust fully in the powerful work of Christ on our behalf to be ALL we need to be restored to the place where God sees nothing of our sin, but only the right-ness of Christ's action on our behalf.  You see, in God's eyes sin cannot just be dismissed - there must be a "payment" for the sin.  The truth is that we cannot ever "repay" the debt sin created in our lives.  No matter how much we try to dig our way out of that hole, we will still find ourselves in the hole until we allow Jesus to lift us out!  His sacrifice on the cross, death, burial, and resurrection - these are the ONLY "payment" which actually fulfilled the debt fully.  As we stand at heaven's door knocking, we aren't "allowed in" because of our merit or ability to make payment - but because our "admittance" into the kingdom of God has already been secured through his living and dying!

God's love is best understood not in the absence of conviction, but in the fact conviction exists.  It is evidence of his restorative justice - beckoning us to turn away from what we have been pursuing and to embrace what awaits us in his presence.  Just sayin!

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