Justice is an ideal in any society, but how often do we hear the word “justice” used when it is really retribution that’s being sought? “We want justice for this crime” can actually be a cry for revenge. And sure enough, when violence occurs or someone starts a war of words, we may be tempted to physically retaliate or at the very least throw ourselves into the heated exchange.
But what is really needed in order to make progress is de-escalation − and figuring out how to accomplish that is not always easy.
I’ve found encouragement in the Bible. One example is the story of Abigail; her husband, Nabal; and David (see I Samuel 25:1-35). David was a rebel leader at the time who would soon be crowned king. Men loyal to David had protected Nabal’s shepherds, but when David asked that Nabal treat them graciously in return, he refused. Not only that, but Nabal mocked David.
When David heard about it, he was furious and quickly mobilized his army. But bloodshed was averted when Abigail realized what was happening and entreated David to act more nobly and forgive what had been done. He heeded her advice. Instead of waging war against her husband, he had a change of heart and thanked Abigail for keeping him from shedding blood.
Whether we are dealing with violence, neighborhood disputes, or a war of politically motivated words, a knee-jerk reaction can never de-escalate a situation. Like Abigail and David, we can pause and reverse a seemingly downward spiral by seeking a response based on a spiritual understanding of what is true and right and what is erroneous, or unloving. Using Truth as a synonym for God, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, urged, “Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God’s own way, and let human justice pattern the divine” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 542). Divine Truth has created us all to reflect its own entirely spiritual nature, which doesn’t include negative traits such as anger, self-will, or hostility. Our understanding of this for ourselves and others can help de-escalate situations that are threatening to get out of control.
Even in the most trying of times we are capable of responding to violent words or actions in a more thoughtful way, rather than simply reacting and seeking revenge in the name of “justice.” It surely takes practice and patience to learn how to do this, but God made us capable of doing it – and this is the kind of justice we all seek.