Step Down From the Bench!
Text: Romans 12: 18-20
Have you ever been summoned for jury duty? You meet in a jury assembly room. While there, you are placed on a panel of jurors. From the assembly room, you are taken to a courtroom. You are seated in the courtroom waiting for the judge to enter. After a while, the announcement is made, "All rise. Court is now in session. The Honorable Judge "So-and-So" presiding. The judge walks into the courtroom wearing his/her black robe, is seated in his chair, and tells the lawyers, jurors, and spectators they may be seated. That black robe is a symbol of the authority and power he/she has as a judge.
What does all of this "black robe" stuff have to do with us as ministers and as Christians? You'd be surprised. It's amazing how many times and in how many situations we act as judges toward other people. And God definitely has a lot to say to us about that!
It's amazing how nasty things can get when it comes to settling whose land a certain piece of ground is. The judge has to decide who really owns this particular property and then how it should be handled. There's a lot of rumors in the air; a lot of intrigue. Before the legal proceedings start, the judge has suddenly recused himself from that case. In other words, he's stepped down on this one because for some reason - maybe a conflict of interest - he's basically saying, "I don't think I should be the one to judge this one."
The Word of God has something very important to say to us in Romans 12:18-20. Brace yourself for some radical relationship advice from God that really flies in the face of what you feel like doing. It says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath. For it is written, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink."
Some Scripture you can sort of sit back, smile and say, "That's nice. I'll do that." But this is one of those that makes an honest person say, "Wait a minute! You want me to give up the idea of retaliating? Of getting even? You want me to minister to that person that hurt me?" "Yes," God says. That's the Jesus-difference.
There may be someone about whom you have some pretty negative feelings, angry feelings. And it is so very natural - sinfully natural - to want to even the score or to respond in like kind. There may be someone you're having a hard time forgiving. God's orders: "Step down from the bench." Recuse yourself from the case.
When we have unforgiveness toward someone, we tend to put on our black judge's robe and sit in judgment of them. We sit in judgment of their actions, their motives, of what should happen to them because of what they've done. In our hearts, we pass judgment on their guilt and we decide what kind of penalty they should receive for what they've done.
But God's instructions here tell us that there is only one Judge qualified to rule on this case. And it isn't you. It's God, of course. We all look silly in His big black robe. It's way too big for you, and so is the task of judging another sinner like yourself.
We want to fix this thing. We want to make things right. And when we do, all we do is interfere with the perfect justice God will give that person. "Do not take revenge ... leave room for God's wrath," the Bible says. He will arrange a payback for the guilty that is better than anything you could ever devise. He says, "I will repay." That means you don't repay what was done.
God is the Master at making things right. Trust God for His justice in this situation and don't mess things up by sticking your hands in it. God's justice may take longer than yours would, but be patient. Justice delayed is not justice canceled. And when God is finished, you will be amazed at how skillfully, how totally He did what needed to be done. Without you doing something that He will have to judge you for.
So trade in your black robe for a servant's uniform. Your job is to serve the one that you'd like to judge. That's what God will judge you for. So excuse yourself from this case. This is one for The Judge to do His way.