Tag Archives: Judge

The Compassionate Judge

compassionate-judgeJoe Serna was in trouble for violating his parole. After a DUI, he had been ordered to stay sober and submit to tests every two weeks. On April 12th, though, his urinalysis came back positive.

Now, there are no excuses for DUI’s. People who drink and drive are a serious danger to society. Judge Lou Olivera knows that. And he knew that Joe had to be held accountable. But he also considered Serna’s condition as he passed judgment.

You see, Joe Serna suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder after 3 tours in Afghanistan. He received 2 purple hearts, and several other medals for his service. He survived IED’s and a suicide bomber. One night he was the sole survivor when he was trapped in a vehicle that filled with water, drowning his fellow soldiers. Because of that, he was terrified of being locked in a cell overnight.

So…what happened next is unique.

Judge Olivera was a Gulf War vet. He knows something about serving. And knowing Joe’s condition, he decided to spend the night in Serna’s prison cell with him. They ate dinner together, they talked through the night, and Joe Serna learned a new respect and appreciation for a compassionate judge.

Of course, Judge Olivera’s actions remind us of a greater love shown by the most compassionate Judge. Not only did God show compassion on us as He sentenced us, but He also took the punishment on Himself! He showed the greatest love and the greatest compassion any judge could. God is both just and the one who justifies (Romans 3:24).

God came to the earth in the form of man, His Son, Jesus, and suffered on the cross and experienced death on our behalf. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Rejoice! Our Judge has removed the penalty for those who love Him and have faith in His Son. He is with us in our hour of need. I say again, rejoice!

Judge vs James: Faith Without Works is…Legal, But Dead?

flowers-gavAt first glance, it might just seem like the same old news: another florist, another same-sex couple, and another ruling. But what may seem to some as a simple judgment might just be the most important thing that you read today.

It isn’t Barronelle Stutzman’s plea that she is being forced to celebrate same-sex unions against her rights and faith. It isn’t the fact that she was sued. And it certainly isn’t the fact that a judge ruled against her. All of that is par for the course these days.

But what should grab your attention is Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom’s reasoning for ruling against Stutzman: you can believe, but you can’t necessarily practice, religion!

Now on the face of things, that might sound almost reasonable. After all, we live in jihadist times. And we certainly don’t want militant jihadists following the parts of the Koran that tell Muslims to kill all infidels (ie., Quran 2:191-193).

But religious freedom has always carried with it elements of a practiced faith, not just a believing faith.

So if a Christian won’t sell flowers to someone for the purpose of celebrating something that their faith teaches is an abomination, are they to be treated as the jihadist? After all, the same-sex couple had many other flower shops that gladly offered to serve them – some that even offered to give them the flowers for free. Won’t the marketplace take care of this by itself?

But what if the flowers weren’t the goal? What if compliance with the law isn’t even the goal? What if faith without works is the goal – an empty belief? And until the practice of the Christian faith is dead, persecution will continue.

Christians who thought they could “coexist” and practice their faith, in this legal environment, are in for a rude awakening.

You see, Ekstrom’s ruling violates a fundamental principle that has been “on the books” for almost 2,000 years. James, the half-brother of Jesus, explained, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). In fact, James has harsh words for one who would take Ekstrom’s position: “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

Of course, I preach James, not Ekstrom. And I tell a congregation every Sunday that we need to put our faith into action. We need to have a living, working faith to be a church that is pleasing to God. But if we put those words into practice, have we violated the law? And am I inciting others to violate the law?

Perhaps. But that is no surprise. And James still says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).