God’s justice prevails within the church
I got to sit in the main lobby of our county courthouse on Punchbowl the other day. It was filled with all sorts of ordinary people dressed in street clothes. Only the lawyers and judges wore suits and ties. The rest were not distinguishable by their dress.
Their ages varied from infancy to elderly; their health varied from robust to handicapped. All were checked for metal objects before they could come into the building. The crowd was not a particularly happy group, and many seemed apprehensive. Somber describes them best. They were on their good behavior. They went from the lobby to all parts of the building where they waited in hallways lined with chairs and benches.
My work used to take me to courthouses all across our country, and they all are inhabited with similar cross sections of people. All courthouses feel the same.
Courthouses are the place in our society where justice is administered. It's where judges and juries weigh facts, opinion and argument to make decisions that can have long-lasting consequences. Courthouses are where we go to resolve disputes with each other. Some disputants become winners and some are losers. Every once in a while, we will find mercy in the courthouse.
In many ways a courthouse is like a church. Anyone can enter both buildings, though you do not need to pass a test to enter a church. There are no metal detectors in our churches. The courthouse metes out the justice of man: fines, jail, restraint, orders to pay, to stay or stay away. Man's justice can be hard. It can take years to seek man's justice.
The church is where the justice of God prevails, but the awe and reverence we feel at church are very different from that at the courthouse. The church has a strong sense of mercy and forgiveness.
The courthouse is where sinners go to be judged and punished. The church is where sinners go to be forgiven, to receive mercy and be given another chance. God's judgment is instantaneous; his mercy is near. Church is where we learn how to live so that God can bless us.
I think of Jesus as my lawyer when facing the justice of God. He is a truly honest lawyer, and he knows the law inside and out. More than that, he knows how to save me from every situation. He's never lost a case. All I have to do is ask him to save me, and he will change my mourning into dancing, my fears into triumph. My sins will be forgiven and I will be free.
The Rev. Murray Hohns is an associate pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship.