Restorative justice

Restorative justice


Another concept that the Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr, likes to explore, is the concept of restorative justice. This is the focus of our blog today.

(Richard Rohr, of course, wrote the book ‘Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps,’ about spirituality and the AA’s 12 step program.)

We don’t know God

Richard Rohr wrote that people often have toxic image of God. He says that this is the reason why they have an ingrained inability to experience God’s grace.

There are two obstacles that most people need to overcome.

Poor theology: People does not believe that a God can love us. They see Him as a tyrant, an unforgiving master who can’t wait to let us burn in hell for our sins.

Poor worldview: Our worldview is not one of trust and abundance, but rather one of scarcity and fear. People find it difficult to grasp the idea of mercy.

A secular view of justice

When we say, ‘We want justice!’ we normally mean that we want vengeance. We want people punished for the bad things they do. This is the idea of retributive justice. It is like ‘This much bad deserves this much punishment’, Richard Rohr wrote.

The biblical notion of justice, however, is different. God’s justice is not retributive, but restorative.

The biblical prophets in effect all said to the people of Israel: You sinned against God and here is what He is going to do: He is going to love you more!

He will love you until you are whole. He will love you until you can’t resist Him anymore.

God punishes us by loving us more

You can read about this for yourself in Hosea 6:1-6, Isaiah 29:13-24 and many of the Psalms.

God’s justice is centered around validating who we are. God wants us to ‘win’, just like a parent would. The ‘spankings’ of life are just to keep us conscious of Him and to keep us growing. It is love that transforms the human heart.

Isaiah says of God that His thoughts are not as ours. Yet, we think that He thinks like us! We think He wants to use fear, intimidation and punishment to lead us to love.

He does not. God does the opposite. Herein lies the economy of grace: God wants to restore relationships, not blame and punish.

What we need

What humans need, is to tell each other the truth about what happened in our lives. Each of us must become accountable for what happened in our lives. Only then can we move forward in dignity.

Hurts must be spoken out loud. It must be heard by our loved ones. It won’t go away on its own.

This is restorative justice.


In our next blog, we want to explore this concept a bit more in connection with addiction. If you read the above paragraph again, you can clearly see why: healing for all the concerned parties in an addiction spiral can only happen if everything is out on the table and can be dealt with.

God wants to restore our relationships, not punish us for our sins.

Please contact us at Largest Heart if you wish to support us in our work or if you need a listening ear. We would love to help.

Back to blog