Each day in our classrooms we are constantly a part of the process where natural human emotions emerge, as a result of someone being wronged. In our society we title some of these wrongs with other terms like: bullying, disrespect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental anguish, harassment, and a seemingly endless list of other wrongs that result in our students, and often parents, seeking our intervention here at school. We know that Jesus said to love and pray for our enemies, Matthew 5:44-45 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” but many times in the world we live in, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of love.
Sometimes in the light of hurt feelings, it seems almost absurd to think about any kind of restoration or reconciliation. But this is exactly what we as believers are called to do. It is difficult to teach our students, that even though when they have been wronged it is normal to be angry and even to get mad, but when they combine deep feelings of anger with a desire for some kind of retaliation, what they get is revenge, not redemption. Unfortunately, our society teaches children to punish others and hurt them just the way they have been hurt. Our responsibility, to teach and to practice ourselves, is that true justice leads to a desire to bring the one who offends to wholeness and healing, where ever an offense takes place. Human nature says that if you get your feelings hurt, you lash out, but Biblical vengeance and true justice sees a limit to the punishment of the offender and at some point requires restoration and wholeness.
There is a story about young Abraham Lincoln, who as an attorney handled a case that is an example of restoration and wholeness, even with someone is seeking revenge. Young Lincoln was approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a lawsuit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! Lincoln’s amazing and ingenious settlement, and the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it, should be an encouragement to us as parents and teachers, to seek ways that do not just settle differences when someone is wronged and achieve justice, but that begin the process of healing and restoring a whole relationship that has been broken.
In the Old Testament the ultimate goal of achieving true justice was to come to know God better. “Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 22:15b-16. In addition to knowing God better, they taught that doing justice leads to shalom, peace. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness abides in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever,” Isaiah 31:16-17.
As parents and teachers, our goal is to teach our students to know God better. But we are also challenged daily to maintain peace (shalom) within our homes and classrooms as well. The Bible says that where there is justice, there is the possibility of peace, but we know that the opposite is also true, that where there is oppression and injustice, there can be no peace shalom. One of the names of Jehovah God is, Jehovah Shalom, which means “The Lord is Peace.” So what does Jehovah Shalom call us to experience in our lives, in our homes and in our classrooms? I believe it is certainly more than the absence of bickering and fighting. The literal meaning of shalom is wholeness. It involves all the conditions of life that make for wholeness and harmony. Shalom is the goal of Jehovah God’s work as deliverer and liberator. God’s purpose in the world is to restore shalom wherever it has been broken. In fact, God’s will for all mankind is shalom, and the task for us as parents and Christian educators, is to do God’s will. It should be our purpose, every day, to use the normal situations which we encounter, as an opportunity to further the work of Jehovah Shalom by promoting restoration and wholeness when dealing with the wrongs and injustices we experience every day.