Justice - Punishment Or Healing?

MOST people have a definite concept of justice, of the law and how it should be administered. And probably many would agree that those who commit crimes should be apprehended and punished. This seems reasonable where what are called felonies are concerned, though even then, caring people would hope that rehabilitation of the criminal-and not just incarceration-would be part of the process.But how about the less clear-cut injustices we encounter in our human experience? What are we to think of one who ste als our reputation or our job or our spouse? Should we react and seek retribution through punishment, or should we seek healing?In his Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel, Christ Jesus told us we not only had to love those who had wronged us, but pray for them as well. And isn't he our example of proper behavior, of righteous reaction?I had always prided myself on my stand for justice and forgiveness. I supported organizations working against injustice and unfair punishment in all its forms.But o ne day, what I thought was a great injustice was done to me. Someone I had befriended broke up my marriage. This seemed to have shattered my joy and stolen my reason for living. All my high ideals of forgiveness and loving one's enemies seemed to fly out the window. I was shocked by how dominated I was by thoughts of punishment, hate, revenge! I'm a student of Christian Science and dedicated to following Christ Jesus' example, so even in the midst of my anguish I knew these angry thoughts were not right and

would not bring healing to the pain I was feeling. I knew deep in my heart that the only answer to the numbing sense of injustice was in consecrated prayer-in the acknowledgment of God's government and His impartial, ever-present love. God does not take good from one of His children to give to another. He has abundant good for all. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Justice is the moral signification of law. Injustice declares the absence of law.'' In the book of Isaiah the Bible assures us, ''Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.'' This is what I was striving to do, to trust in God instead of wallowing in unhappiness and self-pity. Mrs. Eddy also urges us in Science and Health: ''Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.''

The suffering and self-pity gradually lessened. But it wasn't an easy change. Often it seemed that I had to watch every thought, moment by moment. And as I was able, through prayer, to replace resentment, hurt, and a feeling of victimization with an increased understanding of God's goodness, peace did come- with it a return to a useful, happy life. I learned that joy comes only from God. Joy doesn't depend on others, and no one can take it away from us. I knew the healing was complete when I no longer ev en felt any curiosity about the activities of my former ''enemies.'' The hatred and vengefulness were gone from my heart-and so was the misery they had fostered. I no longer wished, even secretly, to see that these individuals were ''properly punished.'' My desire for justice had gone beyond punishment to healing.So, with a heart full of love for my own spiritual growth, I can pray as Jesus commanded. This is healing indeed!

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