As I write this, it’s been only two hours since the media has reported on the verdict in a “high profile” murder trial.  A mother was accused of killing her 2 year old daughter.  I didn’t follow the case very much in the news, because I have found that the media reports what they want, when they want.  Reporting in the news is jaded to reflect what the reporter believes to be true, not true, relevant or irrelevant, and they more often than not throw in their own personal commentary rather than simply reporting the facts.  This usually ends up in the public finding guilt within the accused before the trial even takes place…guilty until proven innocent…and once “proven” innocent, still condemned in the eyes of an unrelenting public opinion, the life they face will never be lived without the stigma and reputation that will follow them.

That’s not how the system is supposed to work.  Innocent until proven guilty is a thing of the past.  I’d like to think that back before the time of instant communication making information accessible across the globe, the accused truly were innocent until proven guilty.  Now that we have radio, television, email, internet, cell phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook and the like…the times have changed.  Innocence for the accused is now a pipe dream.  Moral of the message here is this: take what you watch, read and hear in any media form at face value…with a grain of salt.  It’s most likely someone’s opinion rather than fact.  You’ll learn this along the way as you grow, as I’m sure you’ll see it lived out in your own experiences.

Such is the case with this recent news…the reading of the verdict.  This mother was found “not guilty” on the counts of murder and child abuse/endangerment.  But because she was found “guilty” on the counts of falsifying information to law enforcement officials, the public has condemned her as being guilty on all counts.  Really, the public had already condemned her and “found her guilty”, so the reading of the verdict was more of a slap in the face to a lot of people I know than anything…people who believe she is guilty.  I’ve been reading posts on Facebook all afternoon from “friends” who are shocked at the verdict…surprised she was not convicted of murder…angry at the justice system for what they perceive as a failure…condemning her for getting away with murder.

What is truly saddening to me is how easily we forget how guilty we all are.  We all deserve to stand before a just and holy God and face accountability for our actions…our sin.  God makes several things VERY CLEAR:

1.  There is but one Man who is not guilty of sin.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23  There are other Scriptures to back this up, but this is the one we’re most familiar with.  Regardless of companion verses, it can stand alone.  The truth here is simply that we are all sinners.  In Exodus 20, God lays out a foundation of right and wrong…lists the Ten Commandments and provides for us a moral footing upon which to live.  When Christ came to the earth, He went a step further: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Matthew 5: 21-22.  He goes on further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:27-30.  Any violation of the rules He has set out for us in His Word is sin.  Simple as that.  Sin came into this world through man.  We all sin.  We’re all guilty.

2.  Judging others is not our job.  In the first 11 verses of John 8, Christ makes this crystal clear, summing it up in verse 7, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Luke 6:37 is a great companion verse, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  God alone is holy and just.  We are not God, and because we ourselves live in sin, it’s not our place to judge or condemn someone else for theirs.  In fact, as believers we are called to forgive others:   For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”Matthew 6:14-15

That’s not to say that we are not to be held unaccountable to the laws of our land.  God has allowed the laws of our land to be put in place for a reason…for His plan.  Those placed in positions of leadership and authority over us (judges, congressmen, senators and other elected officials) have been put there by God, so they are in effect doing what God has ordained to be allowed…regardless of whether or not they are believers.

  • “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”Romans 13:4-5
  • Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1

A jury of our peers and/or a judge in a lawful courtroom has authority to judge our actions according to the laws of the land.  And if we’re found guilty, we’re to submit to their ruling.  This would be the only time that “judgment” should be allowed from one person to another.  And for the rest of us not privy to all the facts or placed in the position to lawfully hold someone accountable, we are to accept the ruling of the court and let God deal with all parties and their action or inaction when the time is of His choosing.

3.  Sin has a punishment…a sentence.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23.
  • “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”James 5:20

4.  God loves us enough to offer forgiveness rather than condemnation, although we will all face judgment. and deserve condemnation  You’re surely familiar with John 3:16…it’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible.  But let’s take a minute to look at it in context starting in verse 1 of chapter 3:

 “1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.   4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youmust be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

There are three things within this passage that immediately stand out to me:

  1. God loves us so much that He gave His son…to die an unimaginably painful death on the cross…for me, and for you…and for the mother found not guilty today.  “The world” in verse 16 isn’t just the righteous…the good…the people who work hard…the ones who do the right thing.  Nope.  “The world” means just that…the world.  Everyone!
  2. Verse 12 speaks a powerful truth that is hard at times to digest.  It does me no good to try to explain to someone who lives without Christ in their heart how the process of forgiveness and judgment and “heavenly things” works.  Not to be interpreted as saying we shouldn’t speak the truth in love and show non-believers the truth in the Word.  Just that we need to leave the results to God.  Not everyone is going to get it, and there will be many who don’t.  Many of the people we know and love may never understand, and will then miss out on the redemption found in the blood of Christ.  It’s not our job to convince them, because only the Holy Spirit can talk to a person’s conscious.
  3. There is only one way into heaven, eternity with God.  Belief in Jesus Christ and following Him as your personal Lord and Savior.  Good deeds alone don’t get us there.  Living a morally righteous life doesn’t get us there.  Attending church doesn’t get us there.  Being good people doesn’t get us there.  Belief gets us there.  Belief takes more than knowing God exists.  Even the demons and the devil himself acknowledge the existence of God.  Doesn’t mean they’re going to heaven.  A true belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, coming to earth as Man, living a sinless and perfect life, being wrongfully accused and crucified on the cross, rising three days later,residing now in heaven with God, coming again one day for His followers.  True belief in all of that is reflected in the life we live, the words we choose, the actions we take, the people with whom we associate…the fruits of  our life.

A few companion verses for this passage:

  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
  • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”Romans 6:22
  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – James 3:18

The long and the short of it is this.  I don’t know whether or not this woman is guilty or not guilty.  Quite honestly, I don’t care.  That may sound harsh, but in reality, I don’t.  Why, you ask?  Because if I care, then in a way, I’m looking to find justification within my own  mind to condemn or not condemn her.  I wasn’t on the jury.  Nor was I presented with all the facts.  Only those in attendance for every portion of the trial were.  The jury of her peers alone is capable of determining guilt or non guilt of the crimes for which she was accused here on Earth.  God alone is the capable of determining her guilt or non guilt when she faces His judgment.  It’s my prayer that she accept Him if she hasn’t already…that she draw near to Him and renew her relationship if she has…that others may be drawn to God through this…that I may be slow to anger or judge others and quick to forgive…and that the family of the 2 year old little girl, including her accused mother, find peace and comfort in Christ through this loss.

For you, my children, I pray that you are slow to judge others and quick to forgive also.  I pray that as you grow and begin to be influenced by the media (in all its forms) and your peers that you take it all in with the wisdom and discernment that can come only from God.  Stay in the Word.  Stay near to Him, and that will come easier than if you do not.  I also pray that in the times you are accused of wrongdoing by this world (whether with cause or not), you can rely upon Him for your strength and peace.  When the tide of public opinion may find you guilty until proven innocent, may you grow in your faith knowing that even the  apostle Paul endured years in prison for his faith, and He’s basking in the glory of heaven right now.  Even Christ knows what it means to be wrongly accused, sentenced to die for crimes He didn’t commit, to be guilty until proven innocent…death for our sin, not His own.  Even now, Christ endures the fate of a public opinion that continues to find Him guilty until proven innocent.  Rest assured, when He returns to usher in His kingdom, all will finally know…once and for all…that He is innocent.

Love,

Dad

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