Passing judgment on the judgment of judges is easy–much more enjoyable than being judged by others in response to judgments we made ourselves. Judges always get judged for their judgments, even in cases where the repercussions are minor. I ran into that little piece of truth during an unscheduled stopover in a small, isolated community in Alaska.
In certain regions of that huge, wonderful state, the climate tends to exhibit rapid and unannounced mood swings, irrespective of your carefully constructed travel itinerary. On those occasions, you may find your little bush plane touching down in a place you never intended to visit and where you will remain on “weathered out” status until it’s safe to resume your trip. Descending out of the murky clouds toward that narrow little dirt runway was not in our plan, but it wasn’t all that unusual. It was inconvenient, but we were safely down, and I had decided to try to make the best of it and enjoy seeing a new place and meeting some new people.
“Weathered Out” With a Bonus ~
We soon discovered that the local residents were in the midst of an annual day of celebration commemorating some noteworthy event in their town’s history. The details of that event weren’t clear because all the conversations centered on the extravaganza coming up that evening, the “Great Chili Cook-off and Ice Cream Festival.” As unexpected community guests, my pilot and I were simply not going to be allowed to miss it.
The atmosphere in the school gym was full of excited anticipation, some of which was artificially enhanced with adult beverages, of course. Smiles adorned every face, and we were treated like celebrities. Rows of folding tables were arranged in the center of the room, each topped with pans, bowls, and crock pots filled with someone’s dream of being crowned the next Chili Champion. Eventually, we’d all enjoy a hearty meal of chili and crackers and top it off with homemade ice cream. “Weathered out” was going to be fun for once.
Judge Not — Please ~
My smile faded as the guy with the microphone had a personal epiphany. His face lit up as he declared, “God has blessed and sent us a judge for the chili cook-off who will be totally unbiased!” A numb feeling set in as applause erupted and he handed me a spoon. Attempts to graciously decline were fruitless. “No, no, no,” he said as he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the tables. “God sent you to us and you will give us good judgment.”
“OK,” I thought, “I like chili. How hard can this be?” The situation took a downturn as I surveyed the cards that identified each entry’s main ingredients. Apparently, beef and chicken were too mundane for these people. There was chili made with bear meat, caribou, moose, and varying combinations of duck, goose, salmon, crab, octopus, and ptarmigan. Microphone guy reviewed the contest rules and said, “All you have to do is sample each one and pick a winner.” I didn’t comment. I was busy at the moment passing judgment on my pilot, who was obviously a sniveling coward with no sense of adventure and who was obviously at fault for putting me there. I would rather have been remembered as a guy valiantly trying to get home whose plane went down in a sudden storm than the guy who puked himself to death after being coerced into judging a chili contest.
Dissenting Opinions ~
The stability of my digestive plumbing wasn’t the only casualty of the “Great Chili Cook-off.” My “sent by God” celebrity status plummeted as soon as the winners were announced. Some observers immediately judged that my appointment as a judge reflected ridiculously poor judgment. The dissenting opinion was that not being a bona fide Alaskan, I was bound to have been unfairly prejudiced by outside cultural influences and thus, unqualified to judge anything up there. Unfortunately, they discovered something we need to remember. Presenting enlightened insights after the judge has been chosen and the contest is over has no impact on the outcome.
Choosing judges is challenging because we fallen and self-centered human beings don’t always render fair and unbiased judgment, even when we have the best standards to work with. Jesus ran headlong into that. The great Law-Giver Himself took on human flesh to demonstrate in behavioral terms what His flawless and immutable words really meant. Yet the religious judges of His day rejected His perfect exhibition of the intent of God’s Law and declared Him to be in violation of the very standard that He personified. How could that happen?
The “Law vs. Jesus” paradox reveals that we are victims of our own depravity. We are prone to subject the Word of God, along with obvious corroborating evidence, to our presumptuous human opinions and grant them authoritative power. Jesus’ detractors were good at that. They made a practice of twisting God’s written law to support their personal agenda and popular cultural traditions.Their self-serving assumption that Jesus could not be the Messiah and had no certified authority governed their response to all that He said and did.
A Deeper Question ~
The vital question in legal issues always goes deeper than what does the law “says.” It eventually becomes, what does the law “mean?” After excoriating a group of Scribes and Pharisees for manipulating the Word of God to accommodate their mercenary objectives, Jesus said to them,
…You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:6 NKJV)
The danger of judges mishandling their interpretive latitude is not an unfamiliar phenomenon in our world either.
A new Supreme Court Justice is about to be appointed and we have a profoundly significant role to play in the process. The nature of our role becomes apparent as we watch the attacks that have already begun on the current SCOTUS candidates. Those attacks aren’t challenging potential nominees’ qualifications and achievements. Instead, they zero in on their personal beliefs and religious convictions. That’s because this battle goes beyond legal or political considerations. There are momentous and deeply spiritual implications involved here, and this appointment constitutes a thunderous call to prayer. Our job is not to engage the political adversaries, but to address the spiritual enemies in a realm that the news media won’t cover. Prayer is our role in this process, and it is vital.
The folks in Alaska were right. Whose chili gets the blue ribbon may have a lot more to do with the background of the judge than the ingredients in the pot. The time to do our part in the selection is now, because retroactive prayers are about as helpful as post-contest complaints.
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- “A new #SupremeCourtJustice is about to be appointed and we have a profoundly significant role to play in the process. The nature of our role becomes apparent as we watch attacks that have already begun on the current SCOTUS candidates.” @GallaghersPen (Click Here to Tweet)
- “Our job is not to engage political adversaries, but to address the spiritual enemies in a realm that the news media won’t cover. #PRAYER is our role in this process, and it is vital.” @GallaghersPen (Click Here to Tweet)
- ” . . . retroactive #prayers (regarding the new #SupremeCourtJustice pick) are about as helpful as post-contest complaints.” @GallaghersPen (Click Here to Tweet)
- “I would rather have been remembered as a guy valiantly trying to get home as his plane went down in a sudden storm than the guy who puked himself to death after being coerced into judging a chili contest.” @GallaghersPen (Click Here to Tweet)
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What a great story, Ron, and perfect illustration of the upside and downside of being called to judge. Yes, I’ll be joining you in prayer as the new SCOTUS appointee goes before the congress. I’m afraid all the fireworks were NOT fired on the Fourth!
Blessings to you!
Isn’t it incredible, Martha, how many ways God chooses to teach us things and to reinforce things we already knew? Praying for God to bless us with a judge who won’t try to twist the Constitution into a leftist manifesto is more than an opportunity to be involved, it’s our spiritual responsibility. Prayer is not just a last resort in matters like this. It’s the first resort, but unfortunately, one that we often put off till last. Thanks for standing in the battle lines with us.