I was surprised when Eleda, one of our African refugee mothers, called and asked me to meet with her and her lawyer. She was the mother of 12 children, and her accuser, a young man who was taking her and the local Marriott Hotel staff to court, was attempting to prove that she had sexually harassed him.
The thought that this grandmotherly type would be inappropriate with anyone was ludicrous. I couldn’t believe it. Nevertheless, as her pastor, I had been asked to lend support in this difficult situation.
In addition to accusing the woman of patting him on the posterior, he was suing the Marriot Hotel for defamation of character and discrimination for unlawfully firing him from his job. It was the little guy (the enraged employee) against a big corporation. And the little guy had even enlisted support from the ACLU. The initial meeting with the lawyer, Eleda, and the Marriott staff went well, and all hoped this frivolous suit would never come to trial.
But eventually, a couple of months later, Eleda was ordered to appear in court. It was a small claims case worth a maximum fine of $25,000 for Eleda and $25,000 for the Marriott. The man chose to represent himself, probably because no one would argue his case and he did not have the funds to pay for a lawyer.
The judge informed the accuser that, should he lose, he would be responsible for all legal fees and court costs, and she encouraged him to drop the suit. Eleda and Marriott hoped this would prompt him to give up, but no, he refused to admit that his accusations were unfounded. In spite of the judge’s efforts to dissuade him, he was determined to fight to the end. And the end turned out to be a long, two-hour trial. Unfortunately, I had to sit through every boring minute of it.
The accuser had spent months preparing his arguments. He brought with him a foot-high stack of papers as evidence that he hoped would convince the court that he had a right to a significant settlement. However, the more he presented his evidence, the more I was convinced that his case was sheer nonsense. I could not believe that the judge did not consider this to be a frivolous suit and stop the proceedings before they even got started. I was sure the young man was merely trying to bilk Eleda and the hotel for the maximum amount possible.
However, the judge was unbelievably patient with him. After sorting through his stack of papers, she handed them back and asked him to select his best evidence, he chose 13 letters that he believed would prove that he had been wronged. She read the supposed lie from each letter and asked him to agree whether or not the statement referred to him. It was obvious that in each case, nothing had been said to defame his character. They were statements of facts, many of which referred to someone else.
The longer I sat there, the more impatient I became. After the sixth or seventh letter, I even began to feel irritated with the judge. It was clear to me that this guy was an airhead. Why would she waste her time and mine for such inane accusations? To make matters worse, after he finished his 13th document, she continued for another half hour to drain every last ounce of distortion till he could think of nothing else. I asked myself, “When is this ever going to end?”
When he finally admitted that there was absolutely nothing more to present, the judge closed the session by saying, “I will review your documents very carefully, and within two weeks I will communicate my decision to both parties.”
My new view of judges
It was at about this point that the reality of the situation became apparent. I realized that the judge was putting forth every effort to be patient and absolutely fair. She was thorough to a fault. Her willingness to listen to every possible nuance was impeccable.
Then another overwhelming reality dawned on me: If I should ever go to court, I would want this judge to try my case. I knew she would be meticulously fair, not leaving one piece of evidence uncovered.
What happened to me that day in the courtroom was an “a-ha” moment, a major paradigm shift. Instead of seeing judges as uncaring and harsh, seeking my condemnation, I saw this judge as meticulously fair, one who would be “on my side.” She was a judge I could trust. It wasn’t that she needed to convince me of her fairness. She was fair, and I really could trust her.
Reflecting on this experience caused me to change my entire view of God as Judge. I began to view His meticulous attention to detail as a way of being absolutely trustworthy in the final outcome.
I had felt frightened by the Bible verse that says, “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). But now I understood that by investigating my every word and action God is trying to be fair. Now I want Him as my Judge. His absolute openness provides me with an even greater reason to believe. My new understanding was both enlightening and comforting.
And along with my paradigm shift about the Judge came an “a-ha” thought about the judgment itself. No longer do I want to avoid being judged by God; now I want that moment to come quickly. Bring it on, because the Judge is on my side! He will be meticulously fair!
A judge as savior
Several years earlier a small shift in my thinking occurred one day as I was perusing the biblical book of Judges. I discovered that the judge in Bible times was considered to be a savior. Israel would follow God for a while; then they would begin serving the gods of the people who surrounded them. This resulted in moral and social degradation, and they became slaves to the nations whose gods they had adopted. Then they would cry out to God, and He would raise up a judge to be their deliverer, their savior. The judge would set them free again (Judges 2:16–18).
Even back then, the light began to dawn on me that a heavenly Judge worthy of the name would also be a Savior. My experience with Eleda and the judge brought me full circle. The paradigm shift was complete. I now say, “God, bring on the judgment, for, You are meticulously fair, and You’re on my side! My accuser has finally been cast down [Revelation 12:10]!”