Our exploration of the Ten Commandments at St. Andrew’s concludes tomorrow morning with the words ‘you shall not give false testimony against your neighbour’. I must admit that it has been hard to focus on sermon preparation when emotions are so strong after the attacks of terror yesterday in Paris. But slowly I have come to understand that there may be a connection.
As I have studied this ‘word’ of God upon which a new human society was to be built, I have come to acknowledge a certain progression of understanding and application. The Holy One had commanded already that respect be shown to neighbour in deed, and now that respect is to be shown in word also. What begins in a legal context as a defence against exploitation is extended to become a general prohibition against lying in any way or form, for by compromising the truth, harm is inflicted upon others and indeed the integrity of human society. What is stated in the negative in the Bible is interpreted by the Reformers into a positive, that we are called to speak the truth. As Christians we follow the way of Christ, the way of the one who declared ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, and we are called to live the same constructive, sacrificial service of neighbour as did he, and the same confrontation with apathy, prejudice and injustice as did he. A progression from not lying to telling the truth, and further, to seeking the truth, so we might speak and live it for the good of neighbour.
Which brings me to the fact that this is known as Restorative Justice Sunday. Most of us acknowledge the need for our judicial system and we are grateful for the many who are at work for good within it. But it is also possible to acknowledge that it is an incomplete resource for the fullness of human life. Once representatives of victim and offender have spoken, and sentence has been passed, legal process has been served … but there remains a whole realm of human experience unspoken and unresolved. Restorative Justice declares that for there to be healing, victim and offender might be offered the opportunity to hear each other directly, personally. Dimensions such as hurt suffered and guilt carried need to be articulated. Each of the 40 patches on the quilt at the top of this blog represent testimonies of victims and offenders offered in safe spaces created by restorative justice circles in Canada. The prayer of this quilt is that as the various scraps of fabric are woven together into a cloth, so might the wounded and shattered pieces of our lives also be brought together for a new community. Read more at http://ccjc.ca/resources-3-2/
After the violence perpetrated upon the people of Paris, and by extension many of us beyond that city, there is much here to ponder for the days to come. For now, as I acknowledge the command to speak the truth, I can only look to the One who I believe has spoken and embodied truth most fully. I remember a portion of a prayer by the Scottish theologian John Baillie …
Grant that the remembrance of the blessed life that once was lived out on this earth under these skies may remain with me through this day. Let me remember –
His eagerness, not to be ministered unto, but to minister;
His sympathy with suffering of every kind;
His bravery in face of his own suffering;
His meekness of bearing, so that, when reviled, he reviled not again;
His steadiness of purpose in keeping to his appointed task … (A Diary of Private Prayer)