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“A Sword and a Tear!” 2 Timothy 2: 22-26: Key verse(s): 24-25a “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”



It was a clear-cut case of guilt and punishment. As I was paging through the pages of the magazine I ran across an article about a special judge in Alabama. He held court in a juvenile justice courtroom much like any in this country. Daily dozens of sad cases paraded before his bench. Robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, car theft, shoplifting; this was the daily dose of humanity that seasoned his venue. Boys and girls who had made that one terrible mistake and those that had had occasion to stand before his bench before. According to the article, over the years this one judge had heard literally thousands of such cases. Many of those who had committed these crimes had ended up in the state’s juvenile prison system as this particular judge was not timid in applying the rule of law liberally when it came to sentencing. Passing through this judge’s courtroom was no picnic and few forgot his application of the punishment fits the crime. But, the article continued, many would sooner remember the judge himself than the punishment they so rightly deserved. For, you see, this judge was a man of great mercy. Although he held the sword of justice in his right hand, he always seemed far more comfortable embracing the staff of mercy with the other.


The article focused in on once recent case where a young man had committed a rather serious crime that would bring with it the staunchest of punishments. When it came time for the sentencing, the convicted juvenile stood before the bench with his parents and lawyer standing gravely beside him. The judge solemnly reviewed the nature of the crime, repeating word for word the dreadful details of the act. Addressing the lawyer he reiterated what was already a given, the sentence would be ample and there would be no leniency. The law would not allow it. Then, a remarkable thing happened (something that happens daily in this courtroom), while parents and child hugged and cried the judged removed himself from the bench and embraced the threesome. The hug was not long but it would always be remembered. Despite his willingness to punish, this judge did so in mercy and love. Knowing that the law requires punishment, he was never unwilling to confront those who had transgressed with the cold, hard consequences of criminal behavior. Nevertheless, so that every offender knew that forgiveness was also a part of the bargain, this judge wanted every young girl and boy to know that a changed life would reap a reward of acceptance and love.



As Christians we need to know that being a neighbor is in every way an exercise in meekness. On the one hand we are to serve our neighbor; always willing to tolerate his weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. We must exercise this to the fullest willing to sacrifice, even suffer in that cause. However, when our neighbor is unjust and threatens offense against others, we can’t remain silent. Again in meekness, we must oppose them and lead them to repentance. Where God’s honor and command is involved, we cannot neglect justice. But this justice must always be served upon the plate of mercy and we must never find comfort or satisfaction in the penalty. Rather, we must grieve with those who are punished because, as our Lord grieves over sin, this is also the sign of a loving Christian heart--possessed always of a sword and a tear.

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