Not long ago, a member of my family was charged with a crime.
It is one thing to review our Judicial System on paper or study it in high school or college classes. It is quite another to watch it play out in person, especially with a loved one involved.
This week was the sentencing hearing, when my family member would hear the punishment they would serve for their crime. My loved one felt they’d been treated unfairly by the system, and condemned it for being impersonal. They felt charges were brought without the whole picture being taken into account and they were being singled out as an example.
The details of the case are not important, but what the judge said to my loved one in response was profound.
This judge graciously looked at them and said, “This is the part where I review your individual case. Sentencing is not automatic. There isn’t a chart that gives what you are charged with and what you will serve based on your charges. Any machine can spit out an automatic sentence. I’m a real person who can review this and decide what is best for you and your future going forward. This is what I love about my job, and is the benefit of the very system you condemn.”
My mind was instantly drawn to the image of God as Judge in His word.
“In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” Ecc 3:17 (NLT)
God is the final judge we will all face at the end of our time on Earth. And, as the judge that I witnessed in person, He has no choice but to hand down a guilty sentence upon those who have sinned. That’s you. That’s me. Everyone.
“For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Rom 3:23 (NIV)
God does not rejoice in declaring one of His creation condemned. He doesn’t abuse His power and give unjust punishment. It is the consequence of sin. It is a heart condition we are born into and can not escape.
Glory! There’s a second half to that verse!
“…and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Rom 3:23 (NIV)
There it is. Our personal, caring, compassionate judge. Willing to review each individual case and find a loophole to dismiss the charges!
And a loophole there is! Christ!
“For it by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9 (NIV)
God is His infinite wisdom had a plan! A way to dismiss the charges completely!
Nothing I can do will render me innocent. No good deed. No cash gift. No meal served. No perfect marriage or responsible children. No perfect church attendance. No list of things I did or did not do.
It’s a gift. All we have to do is believe that Christ went to that cross to cancel our debt. He paid our ransom!
And when our time on Earth expires and we stand before the Judge, if we have accepted this gift of salvation, we are not seen as guilty. God sees only the blood of Christ covering each and every sin, and ushers us into eternity with Him.
Condemnation is heavy. The tension was thick in the courtroom that day. It’s heart wrenching to see a loved one condemned and sentenced. How much heavier would it be to stand and be judged in the presence of God?
I was thankful for the reminder of the saving work of Christ so that I will never have to know!