Here Comes the Judge!

05/05/11 | Posted by HughB

So it seems that Osama bin Laden has been found and his death perhaps underlines the truth of Jesus’ words, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

 Whose Justice?

In this same week a coroner’s court in the UK has decided that a member of the public was unlawfully killed during a large demonstration in London a couple of years ago when a police officer pushed the man over. Apparently the fall caused internal bleeding which led to his death. And now, as well as facing an internal disciplinary hearing, the police officer could be charged with manslaughter.

Both of these news stories have brought some interesting responses on social networks, blogs and radio phone-ins. While the actions of Osama bin Laden are far more extreme than the police officer’s the call from the vocal majority has been similar - both should get their come-uppance for what they have done. Naturally, we want justice to be done. But whose justice?

The gospels note several times when Jesus was able to assess the behaviour and motives of the people around him and yet he refused to judge. Instead he explained,

“As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (John 12:47-48).

Much of my working life has been spent learning about people’s life histories. Some have led incredibly worthy lives while others have strayed quite considerably from what society considers to be “the straight and narrow” but one thing that has always struck me is how the person I encounter is a product of their experiences. And certainly, in the cases of people who have fallen foul of the law, I sometimes find myself wondering if I would have done anything different, given their circumstances.

Jesus asked,
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Luke 6:41).

To me, that question is not just reminding us of our own failings but also reiterating that there is only one person who can fully know our life story, only one person who truly has 20/20 unobstructed vision.

So often we get just a snapshot of what a person has done and judge them on that. We don’t know what experiences they have been through that have led them to take that action – maybe what has made them snap. On the other hand, Psalm 139 speaks of how God knows all my actions, all my words, and all my thoughts and has been very present with me every second of every day from the moment I was conceived. That is the sort of judge each of us needs – someone who really knows us.

So maybe it is right to breathe a sigh of relief that Osama bin Laden is no more and to expect the police officer to stand trial but, while we can’t condone their actions, let’s not be too quick to judge them as individuals. We may find that our own eyes have got more decking than the local DIY store.


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