I was driving to Stellenbosch the other day and as I turned onto the highway, on the on-ramp there was a taxi parked with its hazards on and a warning triangle out. This meant we didn’t have the normal run up onto the highway and I had to wait for a gap.
I drive an automatic ’92 Toyota Corolla with only three gears. Added to that my car has a tendency to die if I hit the gas hard and then hesitate. So when there was a gap in the traffic I decided against it, especially considering that after that car it was completely open.
As I was about to drive off, the car behind me pulled out, gave me a dirty look as he passed me and screamed away. (Thus stopping me from driving off.) I was absolutely furious. That undignified feeling of “it is just not right” haunted me for nearly 20 minutes.
As I was steaming I realized my feeling of “this is not right” is a longing for righteousness and justice. And righteousness is a characteristic of the Father. I was longing for the Father. This thought comforted me a bit. Then I started wondering what do I want. What will make this discontent go away?
My gut tells me I want to retaliate. Maybe flipping him the bird or getting in front of him and driving slow on purpose. But I know this won’t actually appease my sense of justice, it will only escalates the situation.
So what do I really want?
I want to stand in front of him and tell him “yes I know I missed that gap, but my car is a bit sluggish, I just needed you to be patient.” I want him to see me as a person, not simply another car on the road. And I wanted him to go “oh I understand”. That is all. That would bring me peace.
The converse would also happen. I would see from his perspective. I would see his urgency and the car in front of him refusing to take a perfectly good gap.
And that would be righteousness.
Maybe God’s righteousness does not consist in simply punishing the perpetrators of violence, but by exposing and stripping away the fear that motivated and blinded the perpetrators. Thus allowing the victims and perpetrators to truly see each other.
This is restorative justice, this is healing justice.
One of the best examples of this type of justice is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.