“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 ESV

I once worked at a local banqueting facility. It was the kind of place that hosted many different kinds of parties and celebrations. There would be families celebrating weddings and anniversaries. Schools would bring their students to celebrate graduations. And companies and organizations would come for lavish banquets at key times of the year. One of these key times was the Christmas season.

Because of the many companies and organizations that rented the space and ordered a big banquet at Christmas time, these banquets would begin two months before Christmas; by mid-October we would already be hosting and serving company Christmas parties.

At first I loved it. Traditional Christmas hymns were being played all day long every day; it was amazing to hear songs dedicated to Christ and his birth in such a secular business setting. There were beautiful decorations and a spirit of celebration all in honour of Jesus Christ come to earth as a babe some two- thousand years before. It was quite something to see organizations and businesses (without truly understanding the significance) taking time in honour of Jesus.

I was thoroughly enjoying myself as I served and helped to host these Christmas celebrations. Until, it became way too much. What began with single celebrations by this company and that organization became one night after another of bingeing (way too much food), and drinking (way too many drunk people). As I served banquet after banquet, night after night, I became disgusted with the gluttony and one night in my spirit cried out to God,

“When God are you going to put an end to this. The blasphemy and disregard for Christ and what Christmas is truly about, disgusts me. When are you coming back to put an end to all this?”

To which The Holy Spirit immediately, sternly, and firmly replied,

“Cyndy, it is for these people that I am holding off. I am waiting, that they might come to know me.”

I was broken. Horrified. Ashamed. I’d wanted them wiped out and God said, ‘You are not getting this. I love these people. I died for these people. It is for their benefit and opportunity that I wait and hold off.’

“God is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not within that any should perish, but that all of you should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 ESV

I immediately recognized that I did not love enough. Not near enough. And I did not yet understand the heart of our Lord God; I was intent on retribution but he was intent on restoration. 118

I ask you:

Who is the condemner? Satan or God?

“God is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all of you should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 ESV

Our answer to the question,‘Who is the condemner’ reveals our belief about God and shows up in the ways we deal with problems, with people, with sin, and our general way of being in the world with ourselves and others.

Many places in scripture we are told that it is our own actions or words that condemn us. God does not need to condemn for our own choices and agreements (to either life or death) is what determines our lives. Consider these following verses:

Matthew 12:37; Romans 2:1; 1 John 3:20-21; John 3:17; Luke 6:37; John 12:47

Because of the condemnation found within our own beings, we react to others with retribution, a demanding that someone pay, an enforcing of punishment, and a focus on who is to blame.

Most of us have been living in cultures of retribution. It is as though we have been babes in the womb and the fluid surrounding us is retribution. It therefore takes some time and considerable effort to come outside of our own thinking and to observe our own cultural mindsets and the way this impacts how we act in the world. Restoration is hard to accept if we have been brought up on revenge and retribution.


A. In RETRIBUTION we focus on:
 who is wrong
• the one we can blame 
• the other person’s fault
Our conversations are about:
• who we can punish
• how we can fix people
• ensuring that others pay the price
A retributive mindset is most concerned with:
• being right
• being heard
• their punishment
B. In RESTORATION we focus on:
extending healing to all mankind
solutions for ourselves and others
taking responsibility for what has gone wrong
Our conversations are about:
• what we can do to help
• forgiveness and making way for restitution
• acknowledging the good others are doing
A restorative mindset is most concerned with:
• hope to all people
• how we might be part of solutions for others
• conversations that open up possibility and restoration

In the beginning God created the world and humans to reflect and know his love and joy and have intimacy with him. But we fell. We sinned and rebelled against our creator. We lost our knowledge of God and we lost the awareness of his great love for us. Fallen, we lost the awareness of relationship and right standing with God. Fallen, we live stuck in religion and self-management of sin. Fallen, we cannot see past our failure and regrets and losses.

Retribution comes out of mindsets that have not known the heart of God for themselves. Because we feel sin and loss deeply and know destruction for ourselves, we, in our great loss and hopelessness, lash out at a world that has gone wrong. Basically we remain in our anger (unable or unwilling to lament and grieve well, and then heal) and we demand that someone make it right.

Without a deep healing within us, we blame and hate and demand retribution from everyone around us. Deep inside our fallen hearts we may act to bring others low in order to convince ourselves that we are better than they. Perhaps, if we can assault others long enough so that they take responsibility for our own greatest pain, we think that we will be free.

But these heart-hatreds never work. They are dead-end cycles of demanding retribution, of taking offence, of bearing grudges, of retaliation and harm done back to others, and more. Hitting back harder than we have been hit never accomplishes anything. There are no resolutions in this, only endless cycles of revenge and violence.

Consider these further contrasts of retribution versus restoration:

Generally Speaking

A Retributive mindset leads to moreA Restorative mindset leads to more
religious law
blaming others
protecting and defending self
control and rules
peace and courage
the forgiveness of God deep in our hearts
rule of law upheld – justice for everyone
love covering over a multitude of sins
taking responsibility for what has gone wrong
authentic and honest living
we live out God’s grace
understanding wholeness

Spiritually Speaking

In RetributionIn Restoration
we focus on sin
we cannot receive forgiveness
grace is suspect and condemned
we try harder and harder to be perfect
we live as though God hates us
we focus on what people have done wrong
we focus on getting people in trouble
someone must be punished
we focus on Jesus
we rest in the forgiveness of God
we allow the grace of God to change us
we put down our self-effort
we know God loves us
we focus on what God has done for us
we live as sons and daughters of the King
Jesus took our punishment for us

Retribution has us focussed on the problems and the people that we have determined are the roots of those problems. We are not able to have bigger conversations, all our talk is about blaming and finding fault. We are stuck in a faulty mindset. 119

Our faulty thinking seems to originate in our assumption that God is retributive.Throughout time we have had this idea that God is out to punish us and to condemn us. And so we live punishment and condemnation and retribution in all of our relationships and by our very cultures.

Much of the harm in this world is due to long cycles of vengeance where family, tribe, or clan members take it upon themselves to return harm for harm or worse.

The Old Testament established some parameters around these cycles of revenge.

“But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for wound, a bruise for a bruise.” Exodus 21:23-25 NLT

Such a law ensured that in a lawless society that there be parameters on revenge. It provided for a certain level of decency so that ‘payback’ could not exceed what was ‘right’. This law seemed to give permission for retribution, yet even this was only a short-term solution and did not fully represent the way of God or his kingdom perspective.

An ‘eye for an eye’ provided parameters that kept excessive and grossly violent retributions from taking hold, but it was not an accurate representation of God in any way whatsoever. It met the need for that day, time, place, and people, but it is not the answer for us today and it is not the answer found in Christ.

Jesus brought the full teaching in Matthew,

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury. ‘ An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” Matthew 5:38-42 NLT

An eye-for-an-eye style of living is futile and Jesus knew this. It may meet matters of the law, the technicalities of right and wrong, but it will not bring us to the kind of love of which God calls us.

Only love can enter into a chaotic world and heal pain and restore our lives. Love, we are told, is the fulfilment of the law. Love is the only thing that upholds the heart and the spirit behind the laws of God.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 ESV

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10 ESV

Many verses in the scriptures point to this new way that Jesus was introducing. Rather than focussing on retribution, where we live an eye for an eye, we are instead called to live a radical orientation of love to all mankind.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35 ESV

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 ESV

We realize fairly quickly that retribution, where we demand that things be made right and where we demand payment for harms done to us, cannot make anything right.

Cycles of retribution only carry on the hurts and harms to another generation and then another generation and then another. Retribution is a fallen story where people continue in pain upon pain, creating chaos after chaos.

I would assert that Jesus comes in restorative justice rather than retributive (or penal) justice. Consider what Danny Silk in his book Culture of Honor says regarding the distinction as that of a relationship with rules versus a relationship with Jesus.

“to judge. This can be taken one of two ways; neither meaning is inherent in the verb. It can mean penal justice or restorative justice. That raises the question about the nature of God’s justice. If God is about the business of balancing scales, then justice is perceived as penal. If God is about shalom, healing and the salvation of the creature, then justice is restorative.” 120

“The standard of the government of heaven is that we learn to cultivate and protect our relationship with God, with love, and with each other. And if we can’t do it, we won’t reflect Heaven to the society we live in. We will just have stricter rules that offend us quicker, and we will judge more often and become famous for being offended judges. Jesus has given us a key to be free from the law that keeps us tied to an earthy model of government, particularly from how that model responds to sin.” Danny Silk 121

The difference is this: A relationship with rules will always result in punishment because when sin happens rules are broken and punishment is the measure given. Yet, a relationship with Jesus does not focus on the sin but on the relationship with God. A culture of restoration seeks to restore relationship with God and others, it does not seek to punish (because sin is not about the rules, sin is about losing awareness of who we are in God).

While retribution is focussed on what has gone wrong and seeks to ensure that people pay for the impact of that wrong, restoration knows that the power of healing comes about within community and relationship with each other.

Where retribution breaks relationships restoration brings people together toward a solution unto wholeness within a community, even when there has been great offence and harm.

Restorative justice is a direct reflection of the work that Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. In the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we see the untarnished image of God, our thinking and the way we are living in this world is deeply challenged. 122

There is nothing in the person of Jesus Christ that would make us believe that God is retributive. Rather, every single action and attitude and manner of Jesus establishes God with a deep heart for restoration.

Christ has done the work to accomplish a renewed relationship and understanding of the heart of God. It is now ours to choose either the retributive narrative or the restorative narrative. Retribution plays over and over again our fall and loss of relationship with God. Restoration re-establishes us and calls us and others forth into our true identity in Christ and our restored relationship with God and others.

God, through the work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing help of our Holy Spirit, makes it possible for us to live a restorative story.

To move from a priority of retribution to a priority of restoration requires a few things:

  1. We entrust the pain of our lives to Christ (we stop making others pay for our hurt)
  2. We allow Jesus to carry the sin of our communities (we stop making scape-goats of people)
  3. We refuse to participate in accusation (we stop agreeing with Satan’s priority on this earth)

1. First: A priority of restoration requires that we put down our pain upon pain and the need to have someone make things right.

After long hard years we realize there are many things that cannot be paid for or be made right. The injustices and harms run long and deep. Everything within our fallen human nature would want to defend ourselves and blame someone else. Distortions are many.

  • In our sin we must find someone more sinful than us to come under our accusations so that we might be found, just maybe, less sinful than they (able to cling to some measure of self worth)
  • Our hatreds would have us finding someone to put that hatred onto, to find someone worse than us, so that we can stand (not as bad) and gain some semblance of dignity or ‘good’ identity

In a retributive culture we can yell at the darkness all we want (and those in darkness) but this will not bring the light of God and neither will it accomplish the heart of God. Recall what we learned about renouncing paganism? 123 We do not focus on the darkness (the hurt, pain, chaos, harm done to us), rather, we bring in the light of Christ (the grace, forgiveness, healing of God).

And in this courageous act we find the shalom of God, the sulha of the God-head, hearts fixed on restoration and redemption.

2. Second: A priority of restoration requires that we stop the blaming, shaming, and condemnations of those within our families, work places, and communities that we deem the fault of everything that has gone wrong; we stop making scapegoats of people.

Often, (more often than you think), a family or community will place upon an individual the fault and blame for everything that has gone wrong (within that family or community). This person, the scapegoat, is then rejected, and in fact feels this rejection and curse keenly. The scapegoat lives out the cost of retribution on behalf of a community.

In the Old Testament passage we read,

“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. “The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:21-22 NASB

This was a foretelling, an acting out, of the work of Jesus Christ when he took upon himself the sins of the world, bearing them away in his own body.

“Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows he carried; yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4 NASB

Yet, when as individuals or groups we have not recognized Christ as the one who carries our pain and heals all that has gone wrong, we then cast this role up a fellow human being. In retributive mindsets we reject those in our community whose sin and failure would reveal, as a mirror, our own sin and failure.

Where we are not reconciled to Christ we will lash out at any who hint at what we are unwilling to face within ourselves.

For instance, in a community thick with sexual sin, a pregnant teen or a raped woman threatens our denial and protective efforts. It is not unusual to find that those sexually addicted are the most ugly against sexual sin. Their own strongholds of sin and failure leave them ugly of heart against any who might remind them of their sin. Their self-loathing is put onto all others.

Out of our pain we subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) look around and see who we can blame and condemn — we do this to distance ourselves from our own pain. Yet, wisdom would tell us, that casting more pain upon another individual does not diminish our pain but will ultimately increase it.

Retribution has deep roots within our unhealed inner persons. The only thing that can stop cycles of retribution within our context’ is the work and gift of Jesus Christ who bears upon himself our sin.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

We must take on the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ and allow him to touch every part of our hearts, to enter into every dark room and dusty closet that we may have. Only in Jesus and because of Jesus can we put aside retributive priorities and come into the priority of God, that being restoration.

3. Third: A priority of restoration requires that we put down accusation.

To accuse is to do the work of Satan. In fact, the meaning of the name Satan is ‘the accuser’.

We see Jesus, kneeling in the dust, with only the naked adulterous woman beside him says, ‘Then neither do I accuse you’.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Mark 8:2-11 NIV

This isn’t a story about adultery and sin, it is a story about accusation and about the choices we make to participate with ‘the accuser’ or not. Note verse 6 where it says, “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”

Jesus was refusing to take any role or participation with ‘the accuser’. And so should we. If we claim the name of Jesus then we come as sheep and not wolves. Luke 10:3 We must not devour each other in our quest for godliness.

We come to realize that Jesus is not looking to be king of earthly kingdoms, he is looking to be king of our hearts and lives. His is a different kind of battle. The battle is not to fight evil (Christ already won that battle) but it is a battle to give ourselves over to God’s way of doing things and to come as lambs and not wolves.

This is why the cross is so offensive and why the way of Jesus is so contradictory to our (fallen) manner of being in this world and why a heart of restoration, what we have been studying as the spirit of Sulha, is so hard for us to become.

It begins in our hearts and minds. It begins by having a vision of something more than retribution. Restoration, rather than retribution, goes beyond fixing things or making payment for things wrong. Restoration removes the contractual limitations and brings us to wholeness and thriving. Wholeness and thriving will never be found in retribution, only in restoration. In retribution we may have a certain satisfaction of payment or justice but it will ring hollow and empty in the long run.

Retribution does not answer our heart’s longing for something beautiful to come out of something ugly. But restoration does this. Restoration makes beautiful things out of what the enemy has meant for evil.

There may be evil and sin and failure and regrets and all manner of terrible and tragic things in our world but God is big enough for all these things. Healing and wholeness in Him and through Him for ourself and for others is the only way that we will find our lives redeemed back unto the original plan of the Lord; we thrive as we loose off retribution and take on restoration.

All creatures and all creation are crying out for restoration back unto the original plan of the Lord. We are called to participate in this great work of restoration.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” Romans 8:19 ESV

This begins as who we are being in the world. It is not done by what we are believing but in whom we are believing. To whom are you trusting your life?

As we advocate Jesus Christ to others and as we declare his healing and life and wholeness in our communities, by our attitudes, by our love, by our words, by our actions, by our emotions, we help to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth.

In summary, to bring the Kingdom of God to earth we agree with redemption for ourselves and others. We fight for our healing in the heavenlies. We intercede for the wholeness of others. With a heart of Sulha we run toward the world, to take on the stones, to repent in identification with the world, within our communities, within our nations.

It is fearsome and mighty, holy and privileged work. Amen and amen.


“God I come before you today confessing that far too often I am living out of a retributive mindset. Yet, I am slowly learning and experiencing your restoration deep within my being. Help me to live restoration in all my relationships and responsibilities. May I be a leader in this community because I stand for healing and wholeness to all people and systems. Guide me and those beside me in all holiness and wisdom in you Lord.”


Two women were heading to the worst part of the city to pray. They had a few old purses filled with necessary items that they were going to give to the women living on the streets. When they first arrived in this part of the city they spent the first while worshipping in a small church in the area. This had been the habit of these women for some time.

At the end of this time of worship and as they were leaving the church a man came up to them and directed them, urgently pointing, “You must call emergency services. You must call emergency services, there is a man who has fallen down.”

The women called emergency services and two paramedics arrived within a few minutes. The man was on the ground. He must have fallen in a strange way for his head was askew and his arms were twisted around. His lips were blue and his face was ashen. He did not seem to be alive.

The paramedics gave him a shot of a medicine meant to help in recovery from a heroin overdose. And they waited. The medicine did nothing. The paramedics spoke, “It’s not working. He is not coming to.”

Upon hearing this one of the women all of a sudden cried out in a loud voice, “Jesus, you must save this man. Jesus save this man!”

Hearing this, the other woman fell to her knees and with one hand on the man’s foot and the other hand on her friends foot she began calling out, “Buddy, you must come back. You have things to accomplish on this earth still. God is not done with you yet! Come on fellow, come back, Jesus is not done with you yet!”

The paramedics stood back in silence and watched and waited. And the man began to move. He opened his eyes. The paramedics helped him to turn over and sit up. The man regained consciousness and began to speak. The paramedics told him, “Hey guy, you were gone but these women prayed for you!”

After getting the man into the ambulance and on his way to hospital the paramedics turned to the women and thanked them for their prayers and for being there that day for that man.
This story is the exact picture of what our hearts are to be for others. Each and every day we have opportunity to be calling out people into their identity and into life in God and the purposes they have in the Lord.

As I read this story I notice a few things:

  1. the women had compassion for this man they did not know
  2. they did not hold his drug-laden state against him
  3. they saw past his trouble and failure to who he was
  4. they knew God had created him for many good things
  5. they refused to condemn or shame or turn away from him
  6. they cried out in love for God to touch him and make him well
  7. they called out to God
  8. they called out to the man himself
  9. they declared his value and worth in this world
  10. they called the man back to his life and to God
  11. the man lived

This is the heart of a restorative mindset. With a heart committed to restoration we call people out to their best life. We call them into their identity in God. We call them into the purposes that God has created for them. We call them out and into life.

We are able to do this as we know God is doing this for us. God is calling us out (of darkness) and into our identity in him as sons and daughters of the most high King. God is calling us out to purpose in his Kingdom. He knows the best about you. He sees beyond your struggles and trouble and failure and sin. He sees a precious person made in his image.

Retribution will not accomplish this work. Focussing on sin, blame, fault and on rules will not do the work of the Lord. James 1:20 But restoration with hearts ready to give and to receive will become participants of God’s great purposes on this earth.

Questions to Consider:

What have you believed about God and anger and wrath?

How have you been impacted by retribution throughout your growing years?

In what manner have you been retributive to those around you?

What has been the fruit (good or bad) of retribution?

Where have you experienced a heart of restoration in your own life?

What has been the fruit (good or bad) of restoration?

After this teaching, what might you be changing in your life and the way you are with people?

What is God healing in your mindset and thinking regarding retribution or restoration?

KEY* Invite the Lord to give you a heart of Restoration, to know what this means, and to be deeply transformed by this manner of the Lord.


God calls us out, to live in his life 2 Timothy 1:9; Psalm 23:3

We are given the same privilege to call others into life in Christ 1 Peter 2:9

This is best done through a heart committed to restoration and wholeness Jeremiah 29:11 

Restoration calls out the best in us Isaiah 40:31; Jeremiah 17:14

Jesus was all about restoration 2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 3:19-20

118 note the older son in the story of the prodigal son

119 Mindsets are stronger and more deeply embedded within our being than beliefs. Mindsets, the assumed lenses by which we understand and see the world, drive our actions in a much greater way than we realize. Mindsets that are contrary to the truth of who God is and what he has created us for become strongholds in our lives.

Actions, decisions, responses, are all a result of our mindsets, the framework by which we understand God, ourselves, others, and this world. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to see our mindsets for what they are and we must apply the healing of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be transformed on this deep level.

120 Michael Hardin, Preaching Peace http://www.preachingpeace.org/about/mission-statement.html 

121 Culture of Honor by Danny Silk, published by Destiny Image Publishers 2009, page 100

122 For instance, we are finding that addiction is not caused by drugs or by alcohol, but by disconnectedness in our society’s and cultures. Specifically and for instance, when we treat an addict, the town drunk, with further disconnection, shunning, shaming and the like, we increase his or her addiction. The manner of Jesus is different than this. Jesus knew that to heal the lives of people we must come close to them, eat with them, converse with them, take them on as friends, and give them the connection and belonging that every human being craves. This is what heals us. See the explanation that drugs do not cause addiction but disconnection causes addiction in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg

123 refer to Module Two, Chapter 61, REFUSING PAGANISM, Always the light of Christ, page 149-150

==> You are doing well. Let us go on to Living in the Manna

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