January 5, 2011

Day 5: The Court of Sin

Philippians 2:14-15a
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..."

Even though I have yet to conquer the complaining bug, I decided to forge ahead and take a look at the other "without" word: "argue".

According to Webster's Dictionary, "argue" means (1) to give reasons (for or against a proposal, proposition, etc.). (2) to have a disagreement; quarrel; dispute--by giving reasons; maintain; contend (3) to give evidence of; seem to prove; indicate [ex: his manners argue a good upbringing] (4) to persuade (into or out of an opinion, etc.) by giving reasons. (Interestingly, it gives as a synonym the word "discussion.")

My first thought about this is: "Surely this doesn't mean that we can't disagree with someone. Unity is NOT conformity. This I know to be certain. So, once again, I surmised that Paul must be speaking to our methods of disagreement as opposed to actually commanding us not to disagree. As I was reading the definition of argue, another word jumped prominently into my mind. It turns out this word is a synonym of the word "argue".

"Justify" means (1) to show to be just, right, or in accord with reason; vindicate (2) to free from blame; declare guiltless; absolve (3) to supply good or lawful grounds for; warrant. (4) As a legal definition, it means to show an adequate reason for something done.

In summary, I would say that arguing is making sure that you are proven right based on your own reasons. To illustrate this, let's take a jaunt into the Court of Sin. All of us have been in the Court of Sin at one time or another, likely more than once (a day).

Just as in a court of law, there are certain players in the Court of Sin. There is always a prosecutor and always a judge. There is sometimes a plaintiff, a jury, and a crowd (spectators). There is always at least one witness and hopefully a defense attorney. Finally, there is always a defendant. Let's take a look at the different roles of each player to discover where we Paul is exhorting us to stand in the Court of Sin, according to Philippians 2:14.

The prosecutor "supplies good and lawful grounds to prove" that the defendant is guilty and deserves to be punished. Since we are told not to accuse (complain), give evidence for (argue), or attempt to prove a matter (argue), then we know we do not act as prosecutor in the Court of Sin.
The judge hands down the sentence and determines the severity of the punishment .It's his job to bring vindication to the matter if the judgment of guilty is handed down. Since we are told not to justify (argue), and since Paul tells us in Romans 12:19 not to avenge ourselves, then we know we are not the judge in the Court of Sin. The role of judge is always played by Father God.

The role of prosecutor is always played by Satan. He can provide lawful grounds in the Courts of Heaven, as he did in Job's story (Job 1:6-11), or he can provide evidence in our own minds or in the minds of others with fiery darts that manifest as negative, blaming, or accusatory thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 6:16).

Turning now to the plaintiff, this is the one who brings the accusation. Since we are told in our passage not to accuse (complain), then we know this is not the position we are meant to hold in court. Scripture says that Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). It looks like he can play a dual role in the Court of Sin.

It is the jury's job to weigh the evidence and determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Since we are told not to declare someone guiltless (argue) or vindicate a wrong (justify), then we know that we are not meant to be in the place of the jury. I believe that in a true Heavenly Court there is no jury.

The crowd is made up of spectators. Spectators are often members of the press, family members of the plaintiff or defendant, and/or interested parties who read about the case in the news and wanted a front row seat for the drama. Regardless of who they are there for (themselves, the plaintiff, or the defendant), spectators usually make their own judgments about the case. Since they are not held to secrecy, they are at liberty to report what they see and hear to anyone who will listen. This is sounding dreadfully similar to the definition of "gossip": "a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others." I believe that this role of spectators is meant to be filled only by the fallen angels that cohort with Satan.

The trouble here is that some of us have been known to listen to the fiery darts of the prosecutor and step into the role of plaintiff. I know I have dared to stand before God and make accusations against my husband, demanding that God change him so that we can get along better. Other times, we step into the role of jury, declaring someone guilty or not guilty based on our won human understanding, or worse on the basis of the prosecutor's evidence. I have definitely gathered with others in my churches and decided the fate of a leader or member of the body who had fallen into sin. Finally, we are all too prone to step role of the crowd, as well. I have listened to the struggles of one person and then taken what I've learned to another party to share my "concerns" and "prayer requests" for them. Is this really intercession and prayer?

I am thanking God that He has changed my heart toward my husband and that I am now learning to follow Paul's admonition to judge myself so that I will not come under judgment (1 Corinthians 11:31). I am thanking Him for the faith that is growing within me to believe that my prayers are powerful and effective (5:16) and that I am a royal priest (2 Peter 2:9), which means that by myself I can approach His throne of grace on behalf of one who needs His aid. I am thanking God that He has given me eyes to see that I am no different from my brother; that if I'm pointing my finger at you, then I am pointing my finger at me (Matthew 7:4).
Moving to the next player, it's the defending attorney's job to speak on behalf of the defendant; to explain the defendant's actions and determine how best to prove the client innocent in the eyes of the Court. Scripture says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), that He spends His time sitting at the right hand of Father God (Colossians 3:1) interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). It is clear that Jesus is our defense attorney in the Court of Sin. [By the way, the right hand of God symbolizes his strength, power, and justice; the hand of the Judge in the Court of Sin (Exodus 15:6; Psalm 118:16; Isaiah 41:10).]

This leaves only two positions that we as humans were meant to hold in the Court of Sin: That of Witness or Defendant!

Other than the role of defendant, which we will look at last, this is the only position Jesus' teachings supports for us in to hold in the Court of Sin. The Bible speaks of a great cloud of witnesses who speak on our behalf and encourage us not to lose heart as we run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1). This is the position of support and intercession. Witnesses are sworn to silence outside the court. They are not allowed to discuss the case with the press, with each other, or with members of the jury. They are called upon by the defense attorney to give account of what they know, and the attorney coaches them in putting forward the best case for the defendant. If we are not sitting on the defendant's seat at any one given moment, then we are part of the great cloud of witnesses for another brother or sister who is in the hot seat. Since we have all been in the hot seat at one time or another, we know just the right things to say to give hope and to extend grace.
Every one of us has been the defendant in the Court of Sin at one point or another, quite possibly at many points (Romans 3:23). I want to note here that the defendant who goes to court without proper counsel is foolish and will likely lose his case. In the Court of Sin, we need legal counsel in the matters of our pain, annoyance, disagreements, and displeasure, and we also need witnesses.

I'm so grateful that I do not have to defend myself (argue) any longer, and I'm so grateful that I have sisters and brothers interceding on my behalf, sharing in my struggles, and encouraging me along the way.

Peace & Joy,

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