Compassion above Justice?
In a closed facebook group, someone asked, 'Do you think Compassion is above Justice? Below is my response. It's a mixture of thoughts from friends, books and reflections.
Sometimes, I think we have to question the question and I have a problem with this question. Is it the case that we have to pitch ‘Compassion’ and ‘Justice’ one above the other or one against the other? The common understanding is that Compassion and Justice are antagonistic: Compassion is soft and tender while Justice is hard and harsh. I don’t think that is the case. I think Justice is such a sweet word which is full of love and compassion. It is the one who suffers injustice who is in need of compassion. The act of justice is here an act of compassion. What about punishment for the wrong doer when justice is done by punishing the wrong doer? Where do compassion and forgiveness come in here? If you forgive someone, you are condemning a wrong (this is not my idea, but theologian Miroslav Volf’s) because if there is no wrong, what is there to forgive? Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it is not realized that there is some wrong that needs to be forgiven. Therefore in the act of forgiveness, justice is done. Also in the act of repentance, someone doesn’t repent unless the person realizes that she/he has done something wrong.
So, I believe Justice and Compassion are complimentary and both should go together. When we simply think of Justice as an act of retribution/punishment without compassion, or when we think of Compassion as not-retaliating/feeling-sympathy/feeling-sorry-for without justice, there will be no Shalom (the biblical peace). There may be instances such as an act of murder where justice has to be done by punishing the murderer according to the law of the land, so that other people are protected and also to deter such act from happening in the future, but even in this, we cannot say compassion is absent. Such acts of justice are also acts of compassion. In the God of the Bible, we find the perfect example where Compassion and Justice go hand in hand.