This blog article is prompted by an article "Scotland has delivered the gold standard in domestic violence legislation". I recommend you read it after reading this blog article.
"Justice" isn't a word that sits comfortably in Christadelphian culture. This is a problem which needs our individual and collective reflection. Scripture "elevates" justice above many other matters we hold dear and from which our primary narratives are drawn.
Our Lord made justice a "weightier matter".
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow's cause".
Justice is not just a highest order principle. Justice is a matter of the highest personal obligation of the Life in Christ - in the pursuit of Godliness. As Micah says, "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Is Matthew 18 about seeking justice?
No. It is widely misapplied. The key is in verse 15,
"If they listen to you, you have won them over."
It follows then that Matthew 18 is about winning over your brother. The evident context of the problem it is focused on, is that is one amenable to open and honest dialogue - a situation in which there is no imbalance of power between the two people involved. Ignoring the reality that there are imbalances of power, promotes environments in which there are power and control behaviours accepted and where abuse can flourish. Power can intimidate. Power can threaten. We malign Christ's teaching to suggest he would allow power to be used for injustice.
"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
If they do not listen to you and instead craft a response of grooming and manipulation of supporters and enablers around them to condemn and vilify you, it is hardly the sort of situation to which Christ's words to win them over will work. If we are to be as wise as serpents we are not getting drawn into this situation. It is not healthy for our spiritual or emotional well-being. People who use power and control behaviours are likely to make themselves the victim, and accuse you of harrassing them - you can anticipate these responses instead of the repentence, restitution and fruits meet for repentance Christ demands. By their fruits ye shall know them.
Is it justice to demand an abused person suffers themselves to be defrauded?
No. 1 Corinthians 6 is widely misapplied. This is highlighted by verse 8:
"You yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters"
If our application of 1 Corinthians 6 results in people (usually those with less power) being cheated and having wrong done to them, then we are misapplying scripture and part of a narrative that is spiritual abuse.
Christ didn't use the words of Matthew 18 or Paul the words of 1 Corinthians 6 to provide a platform for people to continue abuse or to escape justice.
Shouldn't they just forgive until 70 times 7?
No. It is not our place to require this of them. The scriptural principles demonstrated by our Father's forgiveness of us is that forgiveness follows repentance (e.g. Luke 17:3), but not just repentance - also restitution and recompense. But who are we to accept repentance when we are not the person sinned against? John the Baptist says in Matt 3:8, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance". It is the person sinned against's prerogative to asses whether there are indeed fruits meet for repentance. Again, it is not our place to to this. In situations of domestic abuse and many other situations, we should not expect that we know the extent of the abuse perpetrated against someone else. For them to disclose many of those abuses would be extremely shameful. Some of them may have resulted, for instance, in post-traumatic conditions that mean that the memories have been suppressed and that they are unable or unwilling to mention them. In any case, we have no right to be told, and we must respect the dignity of the person whose life is almost always destroyed by the abuse.
"Crocodile tears" are the normal response of abusers who use it to successfully manipulate families, friends and whole ecclesias, often vilifying the victims whilst pleading their case as sinners who just made "one little mistake" - usually the gross sin that found them out or the straw that broke the camel's back. The pattern of behaviour over many years, if not long relationships, may include all the unChristlike behaviours listed in the Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel, for example and rarely, if ever, is it fully confessed.
What is gold-standard justice?
Firstly we are to seek it - we may not get there, as some hidden sins of darkness will not be found out until they receive the light of our Lord's judgement. The hidden sins behind the front doors or bedroom doors of some Christadelphian homes I am sorry to say, are clearly one situation.
Demanding meetings or forcing communication between the alleged abuser and the person disclosing that abuse is not justice. (Refer our blog article https://www.hearbelieveact.org/post/when-it-is-not-a-marriage-problem) . Even telling an abuser the nature of the abuse disclosed may be inappropriate and certainly is profoundly wrong if we do not have the abused person's express permission. Instead we can try to lead sinners to confess their sins - perhaps asking them to detail in writing what behaviours they may have used from the Power and Control Wheel, and working with them on restitution (Refer our blog article https://www.hearbelieveact.org/post/2017/02/12/counselling-and-recovery-for-abusers).
Most importantly it is being aware of the elephant in the room - the coercive control behaviours that are so destructive to mental health and well-being including spiritual well-being.
Please read article "Scotland has delivered the gold standard in domestic violence legislation" and consider it in your reflection on our own community and culture, and ensure that our ecclesias seek justice and lead sinners to repentance.