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« Jesus First, Jesus Last | Main | Language as a Weapon »

My Chief Justice

ussupremect.jpgAs the 2008 Presidential election gathers steam, one of the most critical factors of every campaign lies in the selection of Supreme Court judges.  The presidential term is limited to two terms, or eight years, but the justices of the Supreme Court serve for the rest of their lives, or until they voluntarily retire.  Thus, whoever the new president nominates for the court will have a powerful effect on the legal system and the nature of the laws passed by congress.  This aspect alone makes the election of a president extremely important.

Recently, the contentious confirmation hearings of both the SCOTUS Chief Justice and an associate justice gave America a fresh look at how our government works. Whenever this rare opportunity comes along, it always deepens our understanding of checks and balances and forces us to reevaluate democratic processes that were birthed over two-hundred and twenty years ago. More importantly, it grants awesome insight to Bible-believers into the justice and judgeship of Jesus Christ.

In a nation of 280 million people, only nine hold our destiny in their hands. The executive branch gives orders, the legislative branch makes laws, but the judicial branch decides how everyone else operates. Virtually every question that could possibly be posed about life and death comes before these justices. For example, in the first few days of new Chief Justice John Roberts’ tenure, the assisted-suicide case, Gonzales v. Oregon, was heard by the high court. In many such cases, the court renders split decisions. That means five judges vote one way and four dissent. Pick a justice from each side and you would have two highly educated, thoroughly vetted, superbly trained legal minds who are diametrically opposed to each other. Who’s right? It’s all academic—-unless it’s YOUR LIFE that happens to be hanging in the balance! Four think you should live; five decide that you die. The five win.

Of course, the cases heard by the Supreme Court normally go beyond deciding any one individual’s fate; usually these jurists take cases whose consequences impact a much broader cross-section of society. Nevertheless, each verdict, regardless of how broad it may be, ends up affecting individuals like you and me. This is precisely why the confirmation process needs to be detailed, grueling and sometimes even ugly. Americans ought not to get despondent at this. No human being should get to decide such monumental cases without going through a proportionately-sized, painful investigation to determine suitability for the job. If we deem preferential treatment bad, selfish interests reprehensible and corrupt judges who deliberately circumvent the law despicable, then only one recourse remains—-we’ve got to know if the person we choose will not just don a black robe, but will actually do the job.

Senators ask tough questions of a prospective judge. Do you tout a liberal or conservative record? Are you pro-life or pro-abortion? Do you believe in capital punishment? What’s your position on civil rights? Will you protect private property? Will you support the president even if he’s wrong? Which of the seven thousand plus appeals to the Supreme Court a year will you hear? These queries spring from skepticism and grave concern. Furthermore, we want nine judges making these decisions, not just one. It gives us a little more assurance that the verdict will be right.

One thing should be clear: We have no security in the individual judge, never mind his or her education, intelligence or experience. We only have security in the law. And therein lies the problem: A human judge represents our only tenuous connection to the law. The law may be perfect but the judge is not. The best we can do, then, is find out whether or not a judge will be fair, will uphold the constitution and holds deep convictions about right and wrong. We need to know that this judge believes that the law cannot evolve away from its roots or be manipulated into serving some sectarian or minority purpose. And often, even after we burrow deeply into the mind and soul of the candidate, we still harbor doubts. We just never know. Historically, we have erred often enough in our selections to make us nervous.

Three fabulous truths give us cause to celebrate the true Chief Justice, the Lord Jesus Christ. First, the law by which we have eternal life is not the work of men, but it came to us by holy men of old as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. God’s law is perfect. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12. Moreover, this Word probes the depths of the soul. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. We can have total confidence in the law.

Second, the Lawgiver who authored this perfect law occupies the judgment seat. “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Romans 2:16. He who knows the hearts of men, he who wears the name “the Way, the Truth and the Life”, he who understands all things and he who cannot lie makes the decision about the destiny of our souls. While we may tremble with the knowledge, it inspires absolute trust toward the one who wields such supreme power. No corruption taints our Judge.

Last, we know the thoughts and intents of our Judge. He looked not for a way to execute us, but a way to save us. Thus, he descended from the judgment seat long enough to climb a hill called Calvary and suffer our penalty before it was imposed upon us. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17. Still obligated to his own eternal legal system, he meted out justice and poured out mercy at the same time. Jesus is my Chief Justice!

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