1) How can a "judgement" be both "nice" and "stern," like the judge Kenneth Samuel faced in this story?
2) "Judgment" has a negative connotation for us. Why, or why not, is it necessary, and how do we know who gets to exercise it?
New Year, Old Me
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth." - Isaiah 42:1-3
I remember the first time I was summoned to appear in traffic court for a speeding ticket and some unpaid parking violations. I could have just mailed in the fines, but I'd failed to do so in a timely way. I had never been to court, and being in my early twenties I wasn't quite sure what to expect. All the horror stories I'd heard raced through my mind as I sat in the crowded courtroom waiting for the appearance of the judge.
Upon the judge's entry, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. The judge was a member of the church I attended while I was a seminarian at the Emory School of Theology. He was a kindly gentleman, always greeting me with a smile, a firm handshake and words of encouragement. Surely he, who knew me so well, would grant leniency, or perhaps dismiss my violations altogether.
But as he looked down at me from his high and lifted-up position, I heard him say: "Kenneth Samuel, you are guilty as charged. You will pay the maximum fines with interest, because I know that you know better. You've got to be an example for other young people." That was it. Such a nice man, but such a stern judgment. Still, I could not deny the truth of his words or his judgment. After his ruling I was determined to never have to appear in traffic court for neglected violations again.
In the Christian faith, the judge described in Isaiah 1 can be seen as a prototype of Jesus Christ. This judge is first and foremost a servant with a special endowment of discernment. This judge is not boisterous or self-promoting in the streets. This judge possesses a gentleness that will not allow him to even crush a broken reed. Yet the judgments he renders are righteous, true and abiding.
This judge knows us very well. In fact, he loves us dearly. But he has a tendency to chastise those whom he loves, and to hold those of us who know him to even higher standards. His judgments are much more than our punishment. His judgments are really our salvation.
Jesus, you are our friend and our judge. Help us to find blessing and correction by relating to you fully as both. Amen.