Christians strongly believe in human rights and the importance of justice for both the victim and the criminal. The UN Declaration of Human Rights covers the wider definition of justice and states that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth” can be fully realized. The exercising of rights and freedoms is interpreted in different ways by different people.
Therefore the instalment of “limitations by law.Solely for the purpose of securing due recognition” and respect for others freedom and meeting the just requirements in a democratic society, specifically shows the obvious boundaries between right and wrong. A Christian is defined as a follower of Christ; therefore we follow the work and teaching of Christ. He took the burden of pain and suffering for mankind and was directly caught up in system of corruption and injustice.
His trial at the High Priest’s House (Mark Ch. 14) showed that human beings can be blinded by fear or power to protect themselves of duties.Both on the night of the trial and the day of the crucifixion Jesus was wronged and unjustly condemned to death through the High Priest and Pontius Pilate. Christian beliefs in today’s world highlight the fact that justice should restore both the criminal and the victim. Christians support a criminal justice system that is not based on revenge, but on reform and deterrence. They agree that if somebody does something wrong, they should receive a punishment that is fitting for the crime they have committed.Fundamental Christians support the death penalty and agree with the Old Testament teaching “An eye for an eye”- the taking away of human life can only be fitted with the taking away of the life of the criminal.
However Christians who uphold an emphasis on the New Testament teachings believe in reformation and deterrence- “do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on the left cheek too” (Matthew 5: 39-40). Not all of the Christian denominations uphold the same beliefs towards justice and punishment.The Church of England believes that “A criminal justice system must not only be merciful, but should also exhibit that exercise of mercy against a background of fundamental justice in which a delicate balance is maintained against competing self-interests and rival moral claims”.
The Catholic Church believes that by depriving criminals of some good and taking away the entitlements of everyday life, this will encourage retribution, remedial and deterrence so that one day the person can re-join society and carry on enjoying the fruit of life to the maximum, but never forgetting the wrong they have done.The Methodist Church centres on the laws dealing with “the sphere of human behaviour” and matters including unjustified violence and protection of property. It believes that as a Christian society, if a law is gravely unjust and incapable of reform through the political process, Christians may be called to non-violent civil disobedience in protest. The attention brought to the unjust law or government can be campaigned about quickly and bring about reform. Anyone found guilty of breaching these laws may be punished in the form of less revenge, but the reform and rehabilitation of the offender.Greater emphasis is acknowledged towards the community and young offenders, in respect and resources.
In the hope of combating and eliminating injustice in society, organisations such as Amnesty International have been set up that support criminals throughout their life in prison, and constantly battle for justice and the dignity of the criminal. Projects such as Christmas card sending to prisoners who may have no family and whose Christmas is lonely and demoralising, receive hope that the community are thinking about them and that somebody cares.As a united religion, Christianity follows the belief that punishment and forgiveness can go together. Christians believe that people can forgive because God forgives us. It is the ultimate aim of a Christian to be able to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness as he forgave those who had crucified him as he hung on the cross. If people are willing to be forgiven by God they can have a right relationship with Him and can stop worrying whether they are good enough for God.
Jesus taught that people have to be ready to forgive but also that they have to be able to accept forgiveness and to be able to admit their wrong doing.A person has to be truly sorry and change their attitude, even if it does take more than one attempt. Christians try to uphold the commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, therefore if one loves one must forgive. As a Christian we recite the Our Father in prayer and worship and each time we ask God for forgiveness- “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”. Praying is all very well and every Christian feels obliged to pray and to thank God and ask Him for guidance but if a Christian does not act upon these prayers they are not living Jesus’ teachings and work.
In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus concludes his teachings with “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. Christians are compelled to carry out the work of Jesus and show compassion and forgiveness to all and in turn if they do wrong, they will realise this and turn to reformation and repentance to accept God’s forgiveness. In Luke 23:32-43 the thief was not sorry that he was dying but that he had sinned and turned to crime. He recognised that Jesus was being unfairly killed and did not deserve to die.Jesus forgave those that crucified him and the story shows that it is never too late to say sorry and repent.
In today’s society Christians like Colin Caffell has had to deal with the deaths of his wife, her foster parents and their twin sons. Evidence was finally found to convict her brother of the malicious crimes, as he hoped to inherit the family fortune from the Caffell’s. Colin’s forgiveness emotionally moved the hearts of many people. He said that he couldn’t deal with living in anger and burying himself in a want for revenge for the rest of his life.Colin said that if there was anyone to blame it would be the family but he forgives the killer and the family illness and that has put him at peace with life despite his great loss.
Being able to forgive has helped Colin move on to a new chapter in his life with a new woman and baby girl, but he never forgets his sons and previous wife and regularly attends their graves. He is not betraying his wife and sons but trying to fulfil his life to the best of his ability and not locking himself in a trap of anger and grudges.