In a criminal trial, two of the key events are the verdict and the sentence. The verdict determines what the court believes occurred in the case, and the sentence is a decision of what the court is going to do about it. When considering the impact of a court’s decision, although good judgment is demonstrated in the ability to come to an accurate verdict, justice being served often has a lot more to do with the assignment of a proper and well-deserved sentence. A court would not likely be considered just if it clearly accepted the verdict of “guilty as charged”, but then refused to assign a fitting sentence. But what is a fitting sentence?
When Jesus was given the opportunity to judge a woman caught conclusively in the very act of adultery by multiple witnesses, a crime punishable by death at the time, although He accepted her guilt, He refused to pass the expected sentence of death by stoning, instead commanding her to turn her life around and never commit a similar crime again. His verdict was “guilty as charged”, but His sentence was “Go and sin no more”.
From Jesus’ perspective, the guilty verdict was clearly accurate, but His focus and direction was not on bringing punishment for the crime, but rather on bringing a better result out of the situation for everyone involved. Jesus decision in handing down the sentence of “Go, and sin no more” was an intentional provision of justice through grace to bring about the result that He wanted to see accomplished – a human being born again, starting in a new and better direction, and receiving every blessing that He had in store for them and those around them.
In a lot of ways, it’s only really when you realize that you are wrong that you have the opportunity to turn around and choose a better direction — and this is the justice that God desires as a result of His judgment. This is the heart of the gospel. God does not condemn you for your mistakes, God simply exercises good judgment and asks that you turn around to receive His grace, His blessings, and the abundant life that He has promised for you. You were planned from the moment God created you to be one of His children. God designed you to be an inheritor of His goodness and a member of His kingdom. God desires to care for you as His own special treasure. No matter where you have come from. No matter what you have done. God is offering to raise you from the death of your sins and past mistakes, turn you around from the results of your history, and bring you into a new life, new blessings, and a future that is more than you can imagine.
God does not receive satisfaction from the negative results of our sins. God receives satisfaction when we receive His grace and are born again, starting over again in a better direction by realizing the full power of His answers for our lives. God’s justice is not about punishment. God’s justice is about resurrection and the fulfillment of His vision for our lives. Each person is created on purpose, for a purpose. Each person is designed with a future and bright destiny in store. So, when God sees the opportunity to raise us from death to success, from sin to fulfillment, from failure to grace — He is going to take it every single time. When God sees the opportunity to heal the broken. give sight to the blind, feed the hungry, change the heart of the sinner, restore what was lost, raise the dead, or in whatever way possible bring about the spiritual rebirth of a human being that was originally made to receive His life, His blessings, and His goodness — He is going to choose life, healing, restoration, grace, mercy, and abundant blessings — every single time.
In the history of the Christian movement, a lot of focus has been given to God’s judgment and our guilt. But the focus of Christianity was not actually intended to be God’s judgment. The focus of Christianity is more truly centered on God’s justice, the accomplishment of His purposes, and discovering what He wants to do about the current state of the world and the people in it. Christianity is not about the fact that God knows every one of your sins, mistakes, errors, missteps, and flaws or the fact that He can clearly see your guilt — Christianity is about seeing clearly what God is planning to do about it. As an honest judge, God is not going to alter the verdict, He knows everything that you have done and He accepts that you are guilty of your missteps. However, He has a single aim in mind when handing down your sentence. There is only one goal in mind when He chooses what to do about our sins. God considers every aspect of the case, every person involved, every piece of evidence, and all the historical and future implications of the acts involved and the outcomes and precedents set by His decisions. It’s not that He doesn’t know about your sins. It’s not that He chooses to look the other way or condone or accept them as “just the way you are”.
God expects change. God desires improvement. God commands renewal. God offers life. God sees you for who you are and says, “Let’s turn this thing around.”