She was walking home from work one evening. She had made this walk dozens of times since she took the dinner shift at the restaurant where she worked. Almost always between 10:00pm and 11:00pm; her route took her down the street, through the park, and just over the bridge near her apartment. Once across the bridge it was a quick stroll across the back parking lot and she was home. Very routine. She never imagined she would one day join the list of #metoo victims but this night there was a man waiting for her.
She had served him a few times at the restaurant, and he had taken a fancy to her. So much so that, hiding along her route, he had watched her walk home night after night for a couple weeks. He knew her route and he knew her routine. She always walked with her headphones on, her waitress outfit was dark red, the restaurant’s color, so passersby rarely noticed her, but there was little traffic anyway and rarely was anyone around at that time of night. He formed a plan. He was a very troubled man, and this was not the first time he’d done this.
One night, he hid between the cars in her apartment parking lot and waited. When she crossed the bridge and started through the parking lot, he stood up behind her, followed her quietly to the door. Coming up behind her, acting as if he was just going to see friend, he struck up a brief conversation, as two people heading to the same destination might, and she easily let him follow her inside and up to her floor, where he had stated his friend lived also. But as she unlocked her apartment door, he suddenly turned around and violently pushed her inside. And there, in her own apartment, he brutally attacked & raped her.
Thanks to the video surveillance at her apartment, it did not take the police long to identify the attacker and arrest him. And the DNA evidence assured a speedy trial and easy conviction by the jury. The evidence against the man was simply overwhelming. And there he stood at the sentencing before kindly old Judge Thomas. The judge was known as a loving family man and a deeply caring friend, always putting the needs of others before his own. But here, in the courtroom, faced with such convincing evidence and the resulting guilty verdict, there was only one thing the benevolent judge could do – he handed down the maximum allowable sentence.
And would any of us handle it differently than Judge Thomas? Surely not! In fact, knowing the facts of the case, we might feel that no punishment is harsh enough; such cases usually trigger our emotions in ways that are deeply passionate. This is not really all that surprising, though, because we are created in the image of God and we know that, in addition to being a perfect, loving Father, God is also supremely just, and he punishes sin wherever he finds it. Like the judge in our fictitious story, God is loving, caring, and benevolent…but completely just.
And so while we don’t often like to talk about judgment, the Bible tells us judgment is coming and we do well to understand this. The writer of Hebrews notes that it is appointed to a person to die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). John the Baptist spoke about God’s coming judgment saying, “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10) and Jesus frequently spoke of coming judgment with statements such as: “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Matthew 5:22) and: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matthew 12:36) and: “Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:11) So the coming judgment might not be a popular topic we see that it is one of vital importance.
At this point many might say, “I’m am not concerned about judgment because I’m not that bad of a person, surely my good deeds will outweigh my bad on judgment day.” But even a statement like that reveals what we all know to be true about ourselves, that despite the good things we have done, we all have done bad things, too. So let’s not be disingenuous by refusing to admit our sins. We all have guilt and we all know it intuitively. And God doesn’t grade on a curve like your high school teacher, he judges sin wherever he finds it.
But God, being the loving, perfect, and just judge, made a way for us to be redeemed by sending his one and only Son to the cross to pay the penalty for us. And here we find the real conundrum; regardless of our sins, we can be forgiven only if we accept God’s free gift of grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But many refuse. And this is where judgment comes. Jesus said, “But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” (John 12:48) And in John 3:19 he said, “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” And in John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
But in Romans 8:1 we read: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And in John 3:18 we read that: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” So it is really very simple, we all know we have sinned, but we can avoid God’s judgment simply by acknowledging our sin and believing the Gospel message that Jesus died and rose again for us. The Apostle John wrote: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9) and “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) That is the Gospel message. If you haven’t already, won’t you please believe starting today?
And for those who may be victims, who may have suffered by a crime committed by another, please know that Jesus loves you dearly and he stands with you, arms wide open, able to understand by his own suffering, and that he will one day make all things right. He spoke these words in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And we are assured in the book of Revelation that one day: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4) So we cry with you, come quickly Lord!
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