Sunday, October 25, 2020

Christian Political Theory (13) Voluntary Justice

My last big discovery was that the system of justice established by God in the Torah is voluntary. The judges raised up to apply the law do not have a police force to enforce their decisions. All the judges can do was hear the cased brought before them. They cannot force people to appear before the court. All they can do was hear the testimonies of the people who came before them and announce their verdict. They will specify the amount of restitution that should be made if a crime had occurred, but they have no power to enforce their decisions (more at voluntary justice).

In a voluntary community, the only constraint on behaviour will be peer pressure from within the community. When a judge declares a person guilty, the elders of the community should help the person make restitution (they might even lend them the money). They should do what they can to help the person change their behaviour and live at peace with their neighbours.

If the guilty person rejects the judge's verdict, they are also resisting the wisdom of the people who are trusted by the rest of the people living in the community. They are undermining people who have loved and served them. Their relationship with the community that had sustained them would be dead.

The person rejecting a judge's verdict would be left out of all community activities (Deut 17:12). They will lose all the benefits that come from participating in its activities, including financial support and spiritual protection. Protection from evil (physical and spiritual) comes from belonging to a community. The price of this protection is submission to the justice imposed by the community.

The person who rejects the verdict of the judge respected in their community is rejecting the authority of its elders. This withdrawal of respect eliminates the elder's authority to provide spiritual protection for them. Spiritual protection comes through submission to elders who stand together against enemy attacks. When a person rejects the authority of their elders, their protection evaporates (1 Cor 5:5,13).

People who refuse to comply with the justice imposed by judges recognised within their will lose physical and spiritual protection. This might have more serious long-term consequences than the penalty they are attempting to escape, as those who refuse to submit to judges makes themselves vulnerable to evil.

If a person persists in doing evil, they become a threat to the peace and security of the community. The leaders might need to exclude them from the community to prevent further harm.

No comments: