- The appearance in the same sentence of “assurance” and “judgment” seems to create an oxymoron; this does not make sense, because people are normally not encouraged by references to accountability and assessment. Are we wishing upon a star to hope any kind of assurance can grow from the carrying out of justice? It might be helpful to review the meaning of the word for judgment/justice (mishpat in Hebrew and dikaiosune in Greek and related terms) in a good Bible dictionary, as the variety of ways it is used throughout the Bible suggests a breadth and depth deserving our attention.
- It might also serve this discussion to reflect on ancient biblical systems of justice. How did the people of Palestine carry out these matters? There are two major categories of use for the terms for justice: forensic and social. By forensic we mean having to do with a court scene and decisions rendered. These could be criminal or civil in nature. Criminal cases led to conviction or acquittal, with sentencing attached. Civil complaints normally involved some kind of injustice done for which the offended party seeks fairness and reparation. Typically the elders at the gate provided the body of decision-makers. Unless bribed, they were interested in the right decision. Is this good news or bad news for someone who has been wronged? In the Old Testament the Go’el, or kinsman redeemer, was responsible to make sure everyone in his clan is cared for and has an advocate. Is this the side of the judgment we are supposed to see for assurance? Social justice has to do with how we treat others, violations of which brought fire from the Old Testament prophets and Jesus (see the Parable of Sheep and Goats in Mt 25).
- What does it mean for our world that God is ultimately merciful to his people and at the same time committed to moral values? Could there be anything like morality without consequences for actions, good or bad? Is this where it ends, however? What happens for the Christian who sins and then turns to God for forgiveness?
Relevant Biblical Passages:
Matthew 25:31-46 Judgment based on treatment of others John 3:17-19 No condemnation John 5:19-24 Judgment in hands of Jesus, but those with eternal life no longer judged Romans 8:1 No condemnation for those in Christ 1 John 3:18-22 Love and condemnation
Contributions to Study of Assurance:
- What is the good news and the bad news about forensic justice in the context of a criminal proceeding? What about in a civil case in which our clan kinsman redeemer stands up for the wronged? What about when the suffering find relief through the help of “sheep”?
Lessons for Life:
- What does it feel like to be acquitted of a crime? To have condemnation removed? What about to be convicted? What about to discover, in a case of wrongful treatment, that someone has decided to take on our case and help bring about justice?