Deuteronomy 16:18,20 18″You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgement. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “(ESV)
It’s that time of year again. The time when yards and streets are decorated with those lovely campaign signs. Having a 25 mile drive to work I have the opportunity to seen an abundance of them. Other than name-dropping, are they of any real value in helping you make a wise choice.
Lately, I’ve noticed many campaign signs promoting particular candidates for judge. What criteria do you use when deciding who you will choose to sit behind the bench in you local court, or serve as an appeals court judge in your district? Some states mandate that all judges must first serve as a lawyer, others do not have this requirement.
Can a person who has spent their life prosecuting cases, with a reputation for being ‘tough on crime’ make a good judge? What about a high-profile attorney who has found success defending the worst criminals? Both may have been successful in their perspective (and contradictory) roles as attorneys. Both should know the rule of law, but they interpret and apply it differently according to the needs of the client or the ‘interest of the state.’
The prosecutor’s job is to use the law to punish the accused of his or her crimes against the state. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, use the law to protect the rights of the accused. They are opponents in the courtroom. So which one would be more qualified to wear the robe of a judge? Some interpret Matthew 5:38-39 as a call for vengeance. On the contrary, its purpose was to limit punishment – to assure that the punishment fit the crime. The rule of law is made up of the statutes approved by our elected officials and is what sets the standards of punishment today. The interpretation of the statutes is up to the judge after hearing all the arguments.
Is it possible for an individual who has spent his career approaching the law from one perspective to be a fair and impartial judge? The record and legacy he or she leaves as judge will determine the answer to that question. It does not help, however, when selecting a non-incumbent. Character is the determining factor. Unfortunately, one cannot evaluate character based on a campaign sign on the side of the road.
I must admit I have, in the past, abstained from voting for a judge. I decided I’d rather not vote at all than later regret I voted for a judge who lacked wisdom or was unfair and could not be impartial. We need to pray for wisdom as we vote for our judges and all elected officials. It is also critical that we pray for wisdom for the ones that God chooses to place in those positions of authority.
We will all face judgement one day. Our Most Holy God requires justice. In His mercy, however, He not only provided our defender (though there is no defense for our sin) – He gave us Jesus, who took our punishment and paid our penalty in full with His blood.
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3-10 (NLT)