Choosing justice or reconciliation

Published 9:10 am Friday, April 17, 2015

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Ken Jensen

A young Muslim observed the primary difference between the values of the Western world with that of the Muslim Middle East is that individuals in the West believe they have the right to say what they wish and Muslims believe they have the right to not be insulted. In addition, he stated Christians believe the word of God to be a person: Jesus Christ as the son of God. Islam holds that the word of God is a book: the Qur’an.

His observation may help us understand why the burning of a Qur’an can inspire acts of violence, especially in a fundamentalist society. It is human nature to demand justice when we have been hurt, discriminated against or insulted. Our prison system, in which one in every 100 Americans is incarcerated and the death penalty imposed, bears witness to that reality.

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The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.” (NIV)

Herein lays the distinction of Christian faith from other world religions.

Reconciliation has not always been practiced in the Christian community. There was a time when the church and state were so entwined that individuals were burned at the stake for insisting to say what they wished. It took the Reformation and the Thirty Years War that followed for things to change. Many say it will take a similar Reformation within Islam before the descendants of Abraham (Jews, Christians and Muslims) will be able to live in peace with one another.

The apostle continues, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (Verse 20).

In a world where justice is understood as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” violence and war will continue to escalate. De-escalation happens when nations and individuals no longer dwell upon sins committed against us in the past, but see in the cross a divine sign or symbol of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation in all of our human relationships.


Ken Jensen is a retired ELCA pastor living in Albert Lea.