The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (1):
“If You Are Ever Accused, Would You Want Due Process?”
Psalm 9:7-8 (ESV)
“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.”
The whole country was riveted while watching the confirmation hearing for then the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, when Blasie Ford accused him of attempted rape some 35 years back. Kavanaugh denied it while acknowledging that “she may have been sexually assaulted” by someone else. In response, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted that “the sexual misconduct allegations are reason enough for him to withdraw,” adding, “there is no presumption of innocence or guilt when you have a nominee before you.”
Upon hearing what Schumer said, I couldn’t help but to think of the Inquisition. Many bring it up in public discussion to silence the Christian faith itself, including former President Obama, but I’m not too sure whether they know what it was really about. The 44th POTUS, trying to put into perspective the violent Muslims of Islamic State, said, “During . . . the Inquisition, people committed terrible death in the name of Christ.” Well, that’s not completely true. The Inquisition carried out during the Middle Ages was a potent tool that the Roman Catholic Church employed to root out beliefs that the Catholic Church deemed heretical to remain in power, and the principal victims were the Protestants (i.e., our spiritual ancestors). That is why “in time the phrase Inquisition became a byword, particularly in Protestant areas, for cruelty . . .” (Encarta 1994). All this to say: The Inquisition had little to do with Christ.
Now, consider how the Inquisition was typically conducted. The accused Protestants who did not recant their alleged heresies were tried under the following condition: “The names of witnesses [for the Inquisitor] were . . . difficult to discover. The suspect was not allowed a defense lawyer . . . [and] did not know the names of his accusers . . . Torture was a most effective means to secure repentance” (Finucane 1977:321). So, under the office of Inquisition, being accused, in effect, meant the one accused was already found guilty. The approach preferred by Schumer and the Inquisition is called undue process.
Now, consider Paul and Joseph. If you are ever accused of the charges that were levelled against them, what process would you prefer: due or undue process?
The commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem, to appease the angry mob who wanted to kill Paul for his alleged blasphemy, commanded that he be flogged. But that order was rescinded right after Paul told the commander that he is “a Roman citizen” (Act 22:25). Still under accusation, Paul wasn’t released that day; he did, however, exercise the rights of Roman citizens to appeal his case to the Emperor (25:21). Festus the Roman governor, having no choice but to accommodate Paul, put him in a ship sailing toward Rome. That’s due process.
Potiphar’s wife seemed believable when she insisted that Joseph, whom her husband put in charge of the house, “came in here to sleep with [her]” (Gn. 39:14). After all, everyone recognized the cloak she held belonged to Joseph. So, when Potiphar “heard the story his wife told him,” he immediately “put him in prison” (39:19-20). No grand jury, no trial—this is undue process.
So, what process would you prefer if you are the accused?
We live in America—not Europe in the Middle Ages—where the presumption of innocence is a basic ethos of our criminal justice system. Thus, the Miranda rights are read to any criminal suspect; the grand jury weighs the probable cause to determine whether the accused should be prosecuted; and a public defender is assigned to any accused who wants one. This is called due process, and it originates from God Himself, because “God is a righteous judge” (Ps. 7:11) who “judges the peoples with uprightness” (9:8b). Thus, the LORD says to the accused, “Present your case . . . Set forth your arguments” (Is. 41:21 NIV).
So then, be fair when you are making accusations; don’t rush to judgment. Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (Jn. 7:24 NIV), because that’s you would want if you are the accused.
Prayer: Father, we praise You for being a fair Judge who judges us not only in accordance to Your righteous standard but with grace and mercy. We are especially grateful that You do “not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10). Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 12
Monday’s Blog: Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (2): “If You Are Ever Accused, Would You Demand Corroboration?” (The weekend blogs will be provided by Christine Li.)
Lunch Break Study
Read John 19:6-12 (ESV):
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Questions to Consider
- What law is Pilate following? What is his verdict based on that?
- Under what law were the Jewish leaders attempting to accuse Jesus? Why? Did the Jewish leaders alter their original charge against Jesus (under the Jewish law) once they realized that Pilate was going release Him?
- In view of your findings, would you consider this a fair trial?
- At the personal level, do you argue with your friend/spouse/child/co-worker at all cost just to win, i.e., get what you want?
- The Roman governor Pilate was obviously following the Roman law that has no stipulation against any Jewish person claiming to be the Son of God. Such an individual will surely be deemed as crazy but certainly not deserving of death. Besides, Pilate “knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus to him” (Matt. 27:18).
- The Jewish leaders initially found Jesus guilty of blasphemy based on their law, but once they saw that Pilate wasn’t biting, they switched over to the Roman law and presented Jesus, not as the Son of God, but a king who opposes Caesar. The charge was no longer blasphemy but sedition.
- Of course, it wasn’t a fair trial. Furthermore, what the Jewish leaders said earlier to Pilate wasn’t exactly true either: “But we have no right to execute anyone” (Jn. 18:31). Legally, that was true but that didn’t keep them from executing those whom they deemed as blasphemous like Stephen (Acts 7:59-60). They didn’t try to execute Jesus because “they were afraid of the crowd” (Matt. 21:46).
- At the personal level, let’s allow the facts and truths to prevail, not our desire to win at all cost that always distorts how we see the reality that surrounds us.
Rarely do we go through an entire day without contending for or arguing in favor of something, whether it be in our workplaces, homes, classrooms and conversations over politics, sports, etc. Now, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (Jn. 7:24). Based on how you presented your thought/opinion/conviction to others, would you say you were being fair? If not, what does that say about yourself? How do you need to change so that your speech and conduct reflect our God who is a fair and righteous Judge?