Monday, August 17, 2009

Crooked judges

The Bible is a very ironic book. Ironic in this sense: it’s written to, for, and about sinners. And in terms of secondary authorship, it’s written by sinners. Yet, in terms of its primary authorship, it's written by a holy God.

This generates a tension when we read the Bible. An emotional tension. For the reader finds himself on both sides of the issue. The reader is a sinner. The reader is reading about fellow sinners.

On the one hand, there’s a part of us that likes to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. We go to movies to watch a juicy villain get his just deserts. We frequently enjoy movies on the theme of revenge.

On the other hand, we often sympathize with the plight of evildoers because we identify with their situation. We think to ourselves, “What if I were caught in the same situation?”

It’s like being a thief. A thief likes to steal from others, but he doesn’t like it if others steal from him.

I once saw an Ingrid Bergman film entitled The Visit–on the theme of revenge. It’s told from the viewpoint of the victim. If it were told from the viewpoint of the villagers, you’d have a very different film.

Likewise, when we read the Bible, we’re emotionally conflicted. We identify with both sides of the battle. We want to hedge our bets.

Enemies of Scripture, including critics of hell, exploit that tension. They use that tension as a wedge. A wedge to pry us away from Scripture.

When critics attack the justice of God, it’s like a trial in which the judge belongs to the Gambino clan, the jurors belong to the Gambino clan, and the defendant belongs to the Gambino clan. Not surprisingly, the defendant is acquitted. And even if he were convicted, the judge would void the sentence.

Crooked judges judging the Bible–that’s what we are.

The fact is that you and I don’t have to like the Bible to believe the Bible. For the parts of Scripture which rub us the wrong way have that effect on us because of who we are. They are just and true, but we are unjust and false.

We don’t like it when someone criticizes our character or conduct. We get defensive. We get our back up. We tend to react that way even if the criticism is hits the mark. In fact, we’re more likely to resent a criticism in case it’s true. Because we know its right on target, that says something about us that we’d rather not confront.

It’s easier to fluff off a criticism if you know it’s bogus. You may rankle at the unjust attack on your reputation, but because you know it’s unjust, it doesn’t cut as deeply. It’s not about you. Not about who you are. It’s about what others think of you.

As sinners, we have a love/hate relationship with justice. If we are wronged, we love it when the wrongdoer is punished. If we are wrongdoers, we hate it when we are punished.

There is, of course, a practical resolution to this tension: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

If it weren’t for promises like Rom 8:1, large parts of the Bible would be unbearable to read–not because the Bible is bad, but because the Bible is good while we are bad.

But if we’re justified by Christ, then we don’t feel the constant, nagging need to justify ourselves.

However, the Bible haters never get to Rom 8:1. By rejecting the Bible, they reject the gospel as well as the law. You can’t have the pardon apart from the verdict.

1 comment:

  1. Here's something I've been thinking about lately related to this issue - none of us want the justice we demand to be imposed on others.

    For example, if a man rapes and murders our mother/wife/sister, but saved 100 people from a sinking ship by some heroic actions, we would still demand that he face punishment for his crime. And indeed so would society - the good people do does not give them a free pass when when it comes to breaking the law. Criminals still have to suffer punishment for their crimes, even if they did other good things.

    Yet when it comes to God, we don't want the above principle to apply to us. Instead, we believe that the good we do should offset our evil, that if we're basically "good", that surely God shouldn't/wouldn't want to punish us for our sins. Yet where is the justice in that? If a criminal's crime can't be excused by good actions, they how can our sins be excused by God for our good actions?

    We insist God apply a standard of justice to us that we would reject being applied to criminals who commit crimes against us in this life. We want justice, but only for others - we want mercy for ourselves.