The Corinthian Judgment Seat
The city of Corinth was famous for the Isthmian Games, a festival of athletic contests and events similar to the Olympic games. At the end of each contest or event, the athletes would appear before a large, ornately decorated platform call the bema. On this platform, the emperor sat on the judgment seat and gave out rewards to the victorious athletes for their years of dedicated and disciplined training and their perseverance and endurance in the heat of competition and battle.
The Day of Judgment Is Approaching…Or Not
During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. One day in 1789, the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand.
Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, “The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.”
Rather than fearing what is to come, we are to be faithful till Christ returns. Instead of fearing the dark, we’re to be lights as we watch and wait.
Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 2
God in the Dock
The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the dock.
Hearing God’s Voice in an Argument
A friend of mine named T (seriously, that’s his name) says something really weird happened to him once, right after he got married. He heard God say something. Or he thinks he did, anyway. The content of the short message smacked him in the face, he told me. “So my wife and I were having a big argument about something, and I was totally right,” he said.
“You know how most of the time you might be right or you’re both kind of right, or something, but this time—totally seriously—I was absolutely right, and I knew it, and it was incredibly frustrating. I was so angry.
She was absolutely being wrong.” So what happened? “I went in our bedroom and I was seething. And that’s when something popped in my head, and it practically knocked me over. I honestly think it was something God was telling me directly. Totally stopped me in my tracks.” And what was that? “It was, ‘So, do you want me to judge her right now?’” Whoa.
Judged by A Different Set of Standards
In Words We Live By, Brian Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis apparently had scruples about his thievery.
In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code:
- I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
- I will take cash and food stamps—no checks.
- I will rob only at night.
- I will not wear a mask.
- I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
- If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
- I will rob only seven months out of the year.
- I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.
This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state.
Likewise when we stand before God, we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God’s perfect law.
The Problem with the Human Race
Imagine you have an invisible recorder around your neck that, for all your life, records every time you say to somebody else, “You ought.” It only turns on when you tell somebody else how to live. In other words, it only records your own moral standards as you seek to impose them on other people. It records nothing except what you believe is right or wrong.
And what if God, on judgment day, stands in front of people and says, “You never heard about Jesus Christ and you never read the Bible, but I’m a fair-minded God. Let me show you what I’m going to use to judge you.” Then he takes that invisible recorder from around your neck and says, “I’m going to judge you by your own moral standards.”
And God plays the recording. There’s not a person on the face of the earth who will be able to pass that test. I’ve used that illustration for years now and nobody ever wants to challenge it. Nobody ever says, “I live according to my standards!” This is the biggest problem of the human race. We don’t need more books telling people how to live; people need the power to do what they don’t have the power to do.
A Reward Seat
During the ancient Greek Olympics, the judge of the contest sat on an elevated seat. After the contest was over the competitors came before him to receive their rewards. This was not a judicial bench to determine if someone was condemned; it was a reward seat.
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county.
When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t settle His accounts in October.”
William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith.
In his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, former president of the University of Southern California Steven Sample, details a critical element leaders must possess if they wish to make sound judgments:
Thinking gray is an extraordinarily uncommon characteristic which requires a good deal of effort to develop. But it is one of the most important skills which a leader can acquire.
Most people are binary and instant in their judgments; that is, they immediately categorize things as good or bad, true or false, black or white, friend or foe. A truly effective leader, however, must be able to see the shades of gray inherent in a situation in order to make wise decisions as to how to proceed. The essence of thinking gray is this: don’t form an opinion about an important matter until you’ve heard all the relevant facts.