The supposed reason for Jesus’ death has shaped our view of God’s justice. It is assumed God’s purpose for justice is to pay a price rather than in hopes to restore.
Jesus didn’t die to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered to save face or have their honor restored.
Soldiers die for one another for causes they believe deeply in. Jesus died to convince us of God’s incredible love in hopes we would let God empower us to reflect such love for us back to others. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God.
The traditional understanding of Hell may shape one’s view of God’s justice.
Unending suffering doesn’t produce any good. It turns out no such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. The threat of Hell or prison doesn’t lead to relationships desired by God or parents. The threat of punishment is only initially to deter and steer one from destruction. God in the afterlife doesn’t have to heap on more punishment than the consequences of destroyed lives and relationships. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not fear, is our necessary nourishment for true changes of the heart.
But, the Old Testament laws talk about an “eye for an eye” for justice. Obviously, the law was not saying to gouge out one another’s eyes. The law was meant to keep the privileged from taking advantage of the weaker by seeking unfair compensation. Jesus did not contradict this law but encouraged going the extra mile (Mt. 5:38-42). In NT times often clothing was allowed to serve as collateral – give them your shirt and coat as well. Justice seeks more than just righting wrong by seeking or giving payment. It seeks the possibility of restoring relationships.
How justice takes place in the afterlife may provide insights in what we can strive for in this life.
Obviously, standing up to enemies before a perfect Judge is very different than standing before human judges. Deep down all I want from others that have hurt to me is to experience true regrets, to admit their wrongs, and to make amends when possible. I can’t speak for those who have experience tremendous suffering from others such as sexual abuse, rape, or torture. Does unending punishment or torture truly satisfy? No punishment can return one’s robbed memories because of sexual abuse or murder of a loved one. Justice only for the purpose of payback is misleading for that which has been taken can never be returned.
True justice is being forced to understand your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims.
Will some still refuse to admit and truly regret? The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Believers and unbelievers may go through the same process of justice, some having more regrets than others.
Punishment can never make things totally right for a victim. Is the only justice for a child beater is to be beaten? A child beater may actually have to experience emotionally the terror they gave others, to bring them to their knees. Victims will have their revenge one day. God’s punishment has always been in hopes of redeeming the guilty. We like God may forgive our tormenters if our enemies truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. True confession from the guilty and forgiveness from the victim is the greatest hope for restoration.
Justice from a fair, merciful God is entirely possible despite people being given a second chance after death.