Schools do not allow chewing gum in the classroom. It is a firm and fixed rule – a “law”. “It is a disgusting habit” – that is the view of many. But, for many children and young people it is a “stupid rule” – they declare that chewing helps them concentrate on their work.

But the law is the law…right?

But…how to apply the law in the school? That is the question.

Justice is “getting what you deserve”. The teacher is the judge in the classroom – the applier of the law. Many apply it to the letter – “you have been caught chewing gum and so you are now in detention”. This is called “Zero Tolerance”. Teachers who act like this are seen by their students to be legalistic and cruel. They are often not liked, and their legalistic stance turns many children against them and cause a decline in learning and an increase in misbehaviour as a result.

Other teachers practice “no compromise” – whereby they say, again as the judge in the classroom, “you have been caught chewing gum – what are you now going to do to put it right?” If the child says sorry and puts the gum in the bin, the teacher can praise them with a “well done! Good choice”. All the evidence is that these teachers – showing mercy and grace – are liked because of giving their charges a second chance, and work increases while misbehaviour decreases.

Is there a lesson here for us to learn about how God rules? Is there a lesson here for us to learn about how we should apply the Law?


In C S Lewis’ classic story “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” the four children are told about the lion – Aslan. To them a lion sounded really scary and they asked if it would be safe to be near him – thinking how quickly he could devour them if he wished. Here is what we are told:

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. …Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

As we understand from “The Lord’s Prayer” God is our Father, but He is also to be “hallowed”. And as we hold Him in awe and recognise His holiness we understand that one of His attributes or titles is that of “Judge” (The first time we specifically hear of God referred to as judge is from Abraham in Genesis 18: 25 when He declares to God – “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”)

And what IS a judge? 

A judge is an elected or appointed official who conducts court proceedings. Judges must be impartial and strive to properly interpret the meaning, significance, and implications of the law. If a person is judged guilty of breaking the law, it is the judge who decides on the sentence to be imposed.

Let’s be clear about this – there are those who say that the Law of the Old Testament is no longer relevant because Jesus came to do away with the Law and replace it with Grace. This is not so! Jesus Himself made this clear in His Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 17-20)

Now when you think of a judge do you not tremble a little? Who wants to stand before the “bench” and have the judge look down on you and declare “you have been found guilty of a heinous crime and shall be taken from this place and sentenced to prison for 30 years”?

A judge is considered a fearsome authority figure – and this is what the Bible tells us about God – that all will have to stand before His judgement seat.

But hang on…let’s look at this a little more closely…

Jesus, in John 5: 27-30 tells us the following:

27 And he {the Father} has given him [Jesus – the Son] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28 ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

The Son, Jesus, has been given the authority to be the Judge – and His judgement is always right. But for those who are innocent – His disciples – there is not fear In His being the Judge. Rather there is joy! The Judge is there for our benefit – to welcome us into eternal life.

In the excellent film “Instant Family” where a childless couple foster 3 very challenging children they come before the judge in the family court on 2 occasions. On the first they have done wrong and the judge takes the children away from them. However, all is sorted – as it only can be in films (though this one is based on a true story) – and the children are brought back into the foster home. And finally comes the great day when they all stand before the judge again – but this time he is smiling with joy as he pronounces them the worthy adoptive parents of their very own “Instant Family”.

OK – it is right to have a “fear” of God the Judge. But more than this – let us rejoice that He IS the Judge and that He is on our side.

Over the next 3 sessions we are going to be looking at how grateful and reassured we should be that He is the Judge, and it begins with…


God is love – but He is also a God of Justice. He is the Judge of all the world – yet His judgement is based on love…the love He has for each one of us. That does not mean He accepts wrong-doing. It does not mean that He “turns a blind eye” to wrong-doing – but it does mean that His justice is tempered by His love for us…

Let us look at the well-known story of when the Pharisees dragged a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and ask Him what He says should be done to her. 

For in this story, found in John chapter 8, we see every aspect of the Law. We see legalism, we see Christ the Judge, and we see mercy and we see grace – and we have so much to learn from it all- about God and about ourselves!

At dawn he [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said.

‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

How wonderful! That’s the kind of Judge that I am glad Jesus is! He is the One that I can put my total trust and confidence in:

The “teachers of the Law and the Pharisees” were the legalistic ones. They had no love and no compassion. They saw a sin and simply wanted the due punishment of the Law. They were legalistic. They had no feelings of mercy or grace towards a real person.

Jesus – our wise Judge – knows that all of us have sinned. 

Jesus was not only crying out for compassion to be shown to this woman – he practiced it.

Jesus was willing to temper justice for this woman – where justice is “getting what you deserve”.

Jesus was willing to show mercy to this woman – where mercy is “not getting what you deserve”. He did not pronounce stoning over her.

Jesus was willing to show grace to this woman – where grace is “getting what you don’t deserve” – for He said to her that He did not condemn her – instead He gave her back her life.

Jesus showed that there is a responsibility that comes with mercy and grace – she was to now go and leave her life of sin.

All this mercy and grace came because of the love of Jesus. The fact is that “God is love”. It is always love – seen in the form of compassion, mercy and grace – that tempers the Law.

The Law does not change, but for all of us who love the Lord, His love brings mercy and grace in the way it is applied. Let us be like Him. Let us apply the Law with love, mercy and grace.


Paul is the author of much of the New Testament. And much of his writing is warning the church against legalism. Paul NEVER says that the Law is no longer right. What he does say – over and over again – is that the harsh, legalistic application of the Law is wrong. It is done without Love. It is done without Mercy. It is done without Grace.

God is Love. And the love of God is such that whoever repents of sin will not be condemned but will  be shown forgiveness – mercy and grace.

Let this be the pattern – the example – for us.

The story is told of 2 elders dispatched one night to challenge a fellow elder who had been found to be in the sin of adultery. He had done wrong. Legalism said that he must be exposed and punished for his sin. As they drove to the man’s house one of the elders spoke passionately of the wrong that this man had done and how he had to be judged, condemned and stripped of his office. The other, the driver of the car, suddenly pulled-over to a stop and told this first elder to get out of the car – he would not take him, he said, to pour legalistic condemnation over a man who was now broken. He drove on to the man’s house alone; went in to him, faced him with the facts; they wept together and the elder said to the man that “there but by the grace of God go I”. The sinner admitted what he had done; they wept together some more; the sinner repented there and then, and the other gently and lovingly led him with mercy and grace to a full place of restoration.

As God, the Judge, has shown us mercy and grace, let us always do the same to others. The Law is just. But let legalism always be replaced by love.



REVELATION 20: 11-15

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.


PSALM 75: 7

It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.


‘God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.’

ISAIAH 33: 22

For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.


JOHN 5: 22

the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

2 TIMOTHY 4: 1

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge

[ Please note that this role of Judge was given to Jesus AFTER He heralded in the Kingdom – for as He says in John 12: 47-48 of His ministry while on earth:

‘If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day”]


Yes – we have seen that we can look with hope to the Judge of the world – to judge in our favour. But, let us be very clear about this – we should never say “I can do whatever I like and get away with it because I am a Christian” because we are told the following:

ROMANS 14: 10-12

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

‘“As surely as I live,” says the Lord,
“Every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.”’

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

HEBREWS 10: 30-31

For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.