When we were children, if Dad caught one of us doing something we shouldn’t have been doing, he would often frown and say “grrrrowwwllll.” He spoke gently, never raising his voice, but we knew that we had better stop what we were doing.
Now sometimes I hear the Life-giving Lion gently growl at me through the pages of Scripture. His growl is a warning, but not a fearful one. It is a warning that moves me in the direction of Life, breathing love and peace and joy over me even as he growls. Today I hear the healing growl in Romans 8:33-34.
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
These verses picture God as the Judge and Jesus as the defense attorney. I am the defendant.
But far too often, I find myself stepping into the seat of the prosecutor. “That was so stupid. I can’t believe you did that!” “You’re so selfish. Lazy too. Maybe if you’d just try harder. . .” “Will you ever learn from your mistakes?” “Just look at yourself. How can God ever use someone like you?”
Not content to be the prosecutor, I even try to take the position of judge, declaring myself guilty and handing down a sentence.
Into this unruly crowd of one, the True Judge speaks, reminding me that there are enough prosecutors without taking that position myself. And there is only One qualified to judge.
The Lion’s gentle growl reminds me that the verses from Romans 8 speak not merely of the inability of others to charge or condemn me. They speak also to my tendency to step into the seat of prosecutor and judge. “Who do you think you are, to condemn yourself, when I have declared you righteous?” God alone has the right to make the final call. And, incredibly, it is God who justifies.
I could not have a better defense attorney. Since the time when he stepped down to serve the death sentence himself, he does not leave his place, a continual presence reminding the Judge, the prosecutors, and the defendant (should I care to hear), that the maximum sentence has already been served and the defendant can no longer be held liable.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
May you, too, know the freedom of being merely the defendant, and the joy of hearing the Defense Attorney and the Judge declare you no longer guilty.