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Requiem for a Word

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Yesterday, in an interview broadcast on one of the Sunday talk shows, Tom Ridge said he thought he would make a good running mate for John McCain, despite their differences on the issue of abortion.

Speaking of this fundamental and important difference, Ridge commented on Senator McCain, saying, “He’s not judgmental about me or my belief. He just disagrees with me.”

What does judgmental mean anyway? There was a time when judgments conjured up images of courtrooms and lawyers cross-examining witnesses to get to the truth. Being judgmental meant studying the evidence to arrive at a sound decision. Before political correctness was in vogue, you couldn’t disagree with someone properly without being judgmental, because you had to make a judgment about something before you could enter into a discussion.

Times have changed. Ridge’s comment reflects a common attitude that judging someone–whatever that means–is the cardinal sin.

The most popular verse among the unchurched is Matthew 7:1: “Judge not that you be not judged.” It sounds good when your feet are being put to the fire. It’s a Scriptural way to say, “Hey, get off my back!” Of course, in context Jesus’ words were a judgment in themselves about hypocrisy. But few people take the time to look past Matthew 7:1 to the next few verses.

So I’m declaring the death of the word judgmental. Over the last few years it has gotten heavy and old, unable to stay crisp and useful. Not able to keep up with today’s “disagreements” and “spirited debates,” it collapsed on the speedway of American language, and every attempt to resuscitate it has been unsuccessful.

Alas! poor judgmental. I knew him well.

Flawless Justice

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

The state of Texas has released its last in a string of 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001. Charles Chatman spent 26 years in prison for a crime he never committed. He was tried and convicted for raping a woman who lived five doors down from him. Through DNA testing, a crime lab in Dallas County was able to exonerate him.

What does he do now? It must be hard to cope with losing 26 years of your life. Mr. Chatman told the Associated Press, “I’m bitter. I’m angry. But I’m not angry or bitter to the point where I want to hurt anyone or get revenge.”

Mistakes like this are more common in our judicial system than we’d like to admit. Still, it’s the best system possible in a world composed of flawed human beings. Every suspect that is charged with a crime has the right to a fair trial and legal representation. If he is unable to provide a lawyer for his defense the state provides one for him. Cases are tried by jury—12 peers representing a slice of the community in which the crime was committed. Even after conviction, the accused may choose to make an appeal. Our system is full of checks and balances that cover as many weaknesses in the system as we can anticipate. In the case of Mr. Chatman, after 26 years crime labs were still investigating his case, just to be sure.

When mistakes in our judicial system are discovered we get a sick feeling in our stomachs, wondering how many of these mistakes we missed. What about those who were wrongfully convicted before DNA testing was possible? How many innocent men and women spent the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they didn’t commit? Is it possible that we’ve sent innocent people to the electric chair? Sobering thoughts.

Despite the flaws in our system, we still cling to it, knowing that without any system of justice life would be unbearable. We need a government that punishes the evildoer. That is why we continue to pursue criminals and prosecute crimes with vengeance.

Why is it that people understand the need for civil justice, albeit flawed, but many of them bristle at the thought of a flawless judicial system in heaven? Unlike our own judges and prosecutors, the Judge of all the earth shall do what is right (Gen. 18:25). He doesn’t need DNA testing; he knows what is in man (Jn. 2:25). And at the end of time, every person shall stand before him, the great and the small, to be judged for the deeds that were committed while on earth (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12). On that day there will be no mistakes. Secrets will be revealed (Ps. 90:8; Ecc. 12:14). Those deemed to be righteous will be accepted into eternal bliss; those deemed to be wicked will be separated into eternal punishment (Mt. 25:31-46).

The only way to prepare for this flawless judgment is by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. By following this scheme of redemption, every sinner can stand before the throne of God in boldness, because of the blood of Jesus Christ.

There will be no appeals. No second chances. Are you prepared?