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Retribution

“The near-total focus on the “fall of Adam” in the West, however, has led to both a lack of familiarity with the other episodes of human rebellion in Genesis and a misunderstanding of Paradise and exile…The standard Western treatment of Genesis 3 revolves around Adam as the first sinner who receives the death penalty as the result of his transgression of God’s commandment. But within the text, it is Cain in Genesis 4 who is seen as the archetypal sinner, not Adam. Likewise, there is not a hint in the text itself that death is a judicially imposed penalty. God does not describe death to Adam in terms of retributive justice, either before or after he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He is told that in the day in which he eats of it, he will die—not that he will be killed (Gen. 2:16–17). “ (Fr. Stephen De Young)


“…Deuteronomy takes a less nuanced approach to evil and suffering. [It] expounds at length the principle of retributive justice: in this life good is rewarded and evil is punished…The concept of retributive justice answers a profound human need for intelligibility and stability in the universe, in opposition to absurdity and chaos….The acute problem with retributive justice is that, as the book of Job demonstrates, too many good people suffer and too many scoundrels prosper in this world…Moreover, the subtlety that evil is an overpowering reality that engulfs and captivates humanity is lost within the flat perspective of retributive justice.” (Theodore Stylianopoulos)


“How we respond to those who have wronged us reveals the true state of our souls in a way that goes beyond simplistic distortions of the Christian faith...Regardless of our opinions about any topic, how right we may be in any dispute or disagreement, or what warm feelings we may have about Christ, if we are so enslaved to the passions of pride and anger that we hate, condemn, and refuse to forgive anyone, we have rejected our Lord because we have refused to obey His commandments and to share in His life to the point that we conform our character to His. We so easily become blind to the image of God in every human person, especially those whom we despise due to our own passions. In ways too numerous to count, we build ourselves up by putting others down, both individually and collectively, with great regularity. Apart from the healing power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, there is simply no escape from slavery to an endless cycle of resentment and retribution that leads only to the grave.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)


“On its most basic level, forgiveness means that you will not seek revenge. It means that you are letting go of your right to get even. When you forgive someone, you stop punishing them in your mind….you stop rehearsing in your mind how much they hurt you. However, forgiveness does not mean that you continue to allow someone to hurt you. That is, you can forgive someone, but that doesn’t mean that you trust that person. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting that it ever happened. Rather, forgiveness is commending to God your pain and the suffering you have endured, and commending to God’s judgement and justice the one(s) who caused your suffering. When you forgive, you let go of your right to demand punishment and retribution, entrusting that God is the only One who can bring justice–in this world or in the next.” (Fr. Michael Gillis)


“Enemies, at any rate, and those intent on inflicting punishment not only give no clue but even conceal their purpose while mounting attack lest those due to be punished get to know of it and escape. This is not God’s way, however – quite the opposite: he gives notice, allows a delay, instills fear by word, and does everything to avoid inflicting what he threatens…You see, while soldiers are armed for the purpose of meting out punishment, God on the contrary does not act that way; instead, his intention is to bring us to our senses through fear and to stay the hand of retribution…” (St. John Chrysostom)



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