Please note that this is not the original post. I have edited it in light of some questions that were asked and some thought about what I was trying to get across.

News of the fates of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has gone a little quiet of late and so might be a good chance to look at a side issue of two very different views of justice from two different nations. Let me say, though that I feel for the families and friends of these guys as they face their final days on earth and I am praying that their faith would be firm in Jesus, seeking his forgiveness for their crimes and sins as they walk that final walk.

But I want to focus on the relationship between Indonesia and Australia when it comes to how to deal with them. As far as I can see Indonesia’s case is: they have done the wrong thing and they should be punished.   Whereas Australia’s case is: they have shown signs of remorse and change, and though they are guilty of their crimes mercy should be shown to the situation.

This highlights two very different views of justice, which is what I want to talk about.

Retributive Justice

As far as I can see, Indonesia has taken the view of retributive justice.  In some ways this is true justice.  It is “eye for an eye”.  Retributive justice is the idea that if you do the wrong thing, then you should be punished.  End of story, case closed. This is why Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran should be executed.  They have done the wrong thing and they should face the consequences of what they have done.  What they have done since their arrest in showing remorse has no bearing on this.

Rehabilitative Justice

Interestingly enough the gaol system in Australia is called Corrective Services [1].  I think this is reflective of how people are seeing the issue here from Australia.  Rehabilitative justice is the idea that if you have done something wrong we need to remove you from society until we are convinced that you will be ready to re-enter it.  That is, we will correct and rehabilitate you.

I am not sure that that this is how the whole justice system works in Australia.  It seems to be a combination of things: politicians occasionally promising harder retributive justice, cases like this that emphasise rehabilitation and how it is taken into account, and even cases of reconciliation in justice where victims and perpetrators are asked to sit down and address the crime as part of the justice system.

But in this case it would seem that, at least members of the media, are advocating an emphasis on rehabilitative justice. In the case of the Bali two we have a case where they have shown some clear signs of rehabilitation.  In Australia this would be taken into account.  But not in Indonesia.  Two different views of justice.

Christian Justice

So which of these two should be seen as the Christian view of justice?  One could view quickly jump to passages that talk about God being a God of retributive justice.  And He is.  We have sinned and we deserve judgement.  Hell is not a place of rehabilitation.  It is a place that God pours our his righteous wrath on those that have deserved it.  The cross is where we are rescued from that justice not because we have shown signs of rehabilitation that deserve that mercy but purely because God is merciful.

But the state is not God.  God’s judgement should be left to God (Rom. 12:19).  The role of the state is bring peace ( 1 Tim. 2:1-2).  It does carry the ‘sword’ to bring that peace (Rom. 13:3-4).  God does bring rehabilitative justice to help us live good lives in this world (Heb 12:5-11) and the state is one of those ways.

When the state starts to usurp God’s role in judgement then we have a problem with the role of the state.

Will this change the way Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are dealt with?  No.  But it does help us understand why we have two nations seeking their own understanding of justice that are different.

In the meantime, please pray for those on death row that they seek his forgiveness for their crimes and sins they committed and also pray for those in gaol though not on death row and not in the public eye for the same things.


[1] Recently in NSW the Departments of Corrective Services and the Department of Justice were combined.