by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)

"And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter." Isaiah 59:14

There is no way that you can execute justice unless you know the truth. There are injustices being done between parents and children. There are injustices being done between teachers and pupils. There are injustices being done between administrators and employees. These injustices almost always revolve around the fact that we do not know the truth before we decide to execute a sentence.

All of us must judge. Parents are judges. Teachers judge in the classroom. Administrators judge those who are under them. Almost all of us are in some way judges whether we like it or not. I judge many times a week with thousands of judges judging my judgments. Probably at least 100 times a week I must make some judgment about someone, and it has a profound affect on each life. That means that many times a week people can get upset with me because I do not judge like they think I should judge.

I judge only when I have jurisdiction over somebody. I do not try to figure out what the sentence should be, what the crime is or what the judgment should be in someone else's area. I have too much to be concerned about in my own areas of jurisdiction. I never allow myself to draw an opinion about a judgment case unless I have jurisdiction.

I am the Pastor of the First Baptist Church and the Chancellor of Hyles-Anderson College. If there is a judgment to be made between two staff members, I must make that judgment because it is within my jurisdiction. There are many situations in which I must make judgments over these institutions because they are within my God-given jurisdiction.

It would change your life if you would never consider what you would do if you were judging in someone else's jurisdiction. You would be a happier person and would maintain a better spirit. This is called "keeping your nose in your own business." It would solve a great many problems if all people quit judging where they have no jurisdiction.

What is judgment? Judgment can be broken down to three basic areas. If you handle each of these three areas properly, you will be a just judge.

1. Judgment is the right assessment of guilt. It is not justice to punish without knowing the crime. That is never just. Before you can make a judgment, you must have all the facts of what the crime actually is. Let me break this down into several principles dealing with the assessment of guilt.

(1) You cannot make a judgment based on what it looks like someone did;

(2) You cannot make a judgment based on what you think someone did;

(3) You cannot make a judgment based on what someone is accused of doing; and

(4) You can make a judgment based only on what you know someone did!

Now, let me illustrate these principles.

One night at Hyles-Anderson College someone forgot to lock a classroom door. A faculty member found a dating couple alone in that darkened classroom! This couple was not caught doing anything wrong together. In fact, they claimed that they were only praying together! Suddenly, I was placed in a position of making a judgment.

Now, what would most people think they were doing? Most of us would think that they were misbehaving. What did it appear like they were doing? It appeared like they were doing wrong. Should they be judged on what we think they were doing? No, that would not be just. Should they be judged for what it appeared they were doing? No, that also would not be just. They can be judged only for what I know they were doing. Could I judge them for appearing to be doing something wrong? Only if a rule already existed stating that they could not appear to be doing wrong.

What do I know this couple did? I know that they went in a dark room alone together. That is all I know they did. Now, that does happen to be against the rules at Hyles-Anderson College. My first impulse was to punish them for what I thought they were doing, but in order to be just, I could not do what I wanted to do. Others perhaps felt that I should punish them for what it appeared they were doing, but once again, in order to be just, I could not do what others wanted me to do. They were punished for being in a dark room together.

People should not be punished for what we think they did, nor for what they even appear to be doing. We are also not to judge them for what someone accuses them of doing. Teachers and administrators must not be careless in judging a student merely because of the accusation of another teacher. Sometimes people see things differently than the way they really happened. As a result, a student can be punished unfairly because we assume he is guilty. Justice must properly assess the guilt. I refuse to punish somebody for a crime I do not know he committed or for breaking a rule I do not know he broke. I will not use circumstantial evidence because that would not be just.

2. Judgment is the right sentencing of the guilty. The punishment of a crime must be equal to the crime that was committed. A scale or balance is the symbol of justice. Punishment is to balance out the weight of a crime. If there is no punishment, there is no justice. If there is too much punishment, there is no justice. The weight of the punishment must exactly balance the weight of the crime.

Now let's break this down into several principles that will explain how to be just in the sentencing of guilt.

First, punishment should be predetermined. I do not like to make judgment calls. The Old Testament laws not only stated the wrong but also established the punishment that accompanied the doing of that wrong. Justice cannot stand many judgment calls. Sometimes we feel good, and sometimes we feel bad. Therefore, we will not always execute the same sentence for the same crime. So, in order to be just, the sentence should be predetermined.

That is why Christian schools often have problems. The leader makes judgment calls which can be scrutinized by everyone. That is the reason many years ago I met with the deacon board of the First Baptist Church and spent hours listing every possible crime a student could commit in one of our schools and determining what the punishment would be for committing each crime. That is justice. It also removes the blame from the judge.

God uses that system throughout the Bible. That is what He was doing in Romans 6:23 when He said, "For the wages of sin is death...." God was establishing the punishment for the crime.

Secondly, the knowledge of the rule should be considered. A person should know the rule and its consequences. That is why in our schools we give out a handbook that gives both the rules and the consequences for breaking each rule. It is possible that at times we are delinquent in getting out the word of a rule. This is the reason the Bible tells us that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than it will be for Tyre and Sidon. Sodom and Gomorrha did not have the Old Testament, whereas Tyre and Sidon did. They knew more; hence, their consequences were more severe.

The Bible says that "the times of this ignorance God winked at." (Acts 17:30a) People have asked me why it is wrong now to have more than one wife but it was not wrong in the Old Testament. It was wrong then to have more than one wife, but it is even more wrong now because we have been given greater knowledge of the law. It is critically important in any area of our jurisdiction that we make it clear to those under us what both the rules and consequences are.

Thirdly, consider any precedent. Before administering judgment, it is important to consider what has been done before for the same infraction. When dealing with the administrators of our schools, I often ask if there is any precedent on a matter. It is so that we will not punish someone differently than we punished someone else in the past for the very same infraction.

When establishing the punishments for children, it is a good idea for the punishment to be in the same area as the crime. For example, if a teenager uses the car without permission, the punishment could be taking away his use of the car for a period of time.

3. Judgment is the right treatment after the sentence. Punishment for a wrong deed is the same as a payment for a debt. Once the debt has been paid, it is forgiven! No more reminders need to be sent. It is not just to continue adding sentencing after the punishment has been paid. Do not continue mentioning it.

In this matter of justice there are several principles that we must constantly remember. Without these we are destined to have problems. These are the principles by which I have tried to live for many years.

Basic Principles of Justice

1. Only One has perfect justice. God is always just, and only His justice is always perfect.

2. No two people will always agree on what is just. Good people can differ on some things.

Many years ago Dr. John R. Rice and the Sword of the Lord published my book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual. I was so excited and proud about that book that I took it with me to the barbershop to read it while I was getting my hair cut.

As I was reading the book in the barbershop, I came to a place where several pages were missing! Quickly I looked through the book, and I found those pages misplaced later in the book. I rushed out of the barbershop and went to a pay phone to call Dr. Rice and inform him of the problem. When he answered the phone, I said, "Dr. Rice, you are going to be disappointed to find out that 20 pages of The Hyles Sunday School Manual are not in correct order." There was silence on the other end of the phone! I said, "Dr. Rice, what are we going to do about it?"

Dr. Rice finally spoke, and he said, "Dr. Hyles, we will print a sticker to be placed on the inside cover of the book telling the reader where to find those pages."

I said, "But, Dr. Rice, that is not fair."

He said, "I think it is fair."

I did not think that Dr. Rice was making a just decision. I felt that he should reprint the book, but Dr. Rice felt we should put a sticker on the inside cover. I was sincere. So was Dr. Rice. Yet we differed. This did not hurt our relationship at all. It simply shows that two people, regardless of how sincere, do not always agree on justice.

3. I must not require you to reconcile your justice with mine. If I do require you to agree with me, then I am acting as God. I always think that my judgment is right, but good people can disagree. In any instance, I could be wrong and the other person could be right. That is one reason we all should limit our judging to our own areas of judgment.

Dr. Rice and I disagreed on what was just, but l decided many years before, "Dr. Rice is a good man." Although as a man he could be wrong on some things, I never required him to agree with me because I also am human and could be wrong. Consequently, I must not require others to reconcile their concept of justice to what I think is justice.

4. I must decide if you are sincere. If you are sincerely trying to be just, I must not get upset if you disagree with me on what is just. If only God is always just, then sometimes I will be sincerely wrong. So will you. If we disagree on what is just, I must take into account the possibility that this is a case where I could be wrong. Dr. Rice was sincere. Even though I disagreed with him, the possibility remained that I was wrong.

5. Because you are sincere, I must allow you to disagree.

6. I will not put you on trial every day. Folks, decide once and for all if someone is sincere, and then stop putting him on trial every day. The reason we do not get along with others is because we are constantly putting them on trial. Decide once and for all that a person is sincere, and then you will not struggle with him when you disagree on what is just. Others will not do things the way you want them done, but do not put them on trial for your disagreements.

There is a statement made in the Bible three times with exactly the same wording, and a fourth time in a slightly different way. Romans 1.~1 7, "... The just shall live by faith." Galatians 3:11, "... The just shall live by faith." Hebrews 10:38, "...the just shall live by faith." Habakkuk 2:4 says, "...the just shall by his faith."

What does this mean? Romans 1:17 says we live 'from faith to faith." It means that we live by our confidence in the justice of God. That is also how we treat each other and get along with each other. We have confidence in one another, not because any one of us has perfect justice, but because we are sincere and seek to be just. We must accept the fact that even in our sincerity all of us are sometimes wrong. We should not put each other on trial nor condemn each other if we think the other person is not being just. If we do, we become God because we think we are the only one who is right.

This truth could change your life! It could keep you from destroying your marriage, your business, your friendships and even your relationship with other leaders. Someone must be in charge of every situation. Do not be another's judge. Do not make him agree with your judgments. Allow others to disagree by accepting that they are sincere. Do not put them on trial every day. You may be right and they may be wrong, but they may be right and you may be wrong. Since you are not God, do not play God!


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