USA (MNN) — Social justice is a hot topic these days, and few would say they've never at least heard the term. But another movement is on the rise that you may not be as familiar with.
Restorative Justice Week is coming up in November to help make more and more people aware of the alternative approach to justice. So what is restorative justice?
"It's focusing on repairing harm to the victim in the community," explains Tristan Sweat with Crossroad Bible Institute. "In our current justice system, the focus is on the offender and what the state feels is an appropriate punishment, where restorative justice seeks to restore peace to the victim and the community."
Restorative justice also approaches the offender in order to get them to take responsibility for their crimes and get to the root cause of it. Furthermore, it helps offenders to recognize how their actions hurt the victims involved, and it promotes healing between the two parties. CBI works especially in this realm of restorative justice. Sweat says the more healing that takes place in the arms of Jesus Christ through these processes, the less likely an inmate is to commit a crime again he or she leaves the prison system.
Restorative Justice Week is specifically to raise awareness of this alternative approach to justice in the U.S. Throughout November 14 to 20, CBI encourages churches to get on board and preach a sermon on restorative justice, or to ask a CBI representative to set up a booth at their church. The ministry has all sorts of resources to help churches
"What we have on our Web site is a toolkit," says Sweat. "It makes it really easy for churches to prepare a Sunday worship that raises awareness to restorative justice."
The Restorative Justice Toolkit provides suggested calls to worship, sermon starters, prayers, song ideas, bulletin covers, bulletin inserts and a four-week Bible study to go along with "The Little Book of Restorative Justice." You can get any or all of these items in CBI's free toolkit here.
What will really happen if your church or even just a small group gets involved with this? What if you haven't ever felt affected by a crime? Sweat points out that for one thing, our entire society is affected by crime. More importantly, though, as you seek to understand God's heart for everyone–even violators of the law, you may find that He's working within you. Simple participation in a Bible study or a unique sermon may even lead to a great prison ministry. (CBI has loads of ministry tools for you if that's the case.) Who knows what the Lord might do?
At the very least, use that third week in November to be praying. Pray for those who are imprisoned who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for successful reentries into society of the various offenders CBI or your church works with. Pray that during this week God would open the eyes and hearts of your congregation and use you as He pleases to create a loving and peaceful community.