The Crocodile Book
A Model of Justice Procedures for Relational Restoration
On October 9, 2005, Pastor Greg Laskowsky of Grace Covenant Church, Statesville, NC preached a sermon on being a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It occurred to me during the illustration on the Crocodile book, that every element, or almost every element, of the Justice model was included. So, with permission, we will parse the illustration to show you how Kingdom Justice applies now. This is a wonderful story that we call all learn from.
Please, remember that Justice exists as a system whereby we can be reconciled to those that have sinned against us and to those we have sinned against as well. Using the term ‘sin’ in connection with this illustration might seem strong to some, but let us not excuse unrighteous conduct as a mistake or an accident when motives and heart attitudes are in anyway un-Christ like. I am convinced that if we would judge ourselves and discipline ourselves, then we will be more apt to find mercy with God rather His displeasure for our self-justification. Remember, it is His Kingdom and not ours.
When there is an offense between two or more
individuals, then there must be communication between them to correct the wrong
and to restore the relationship as it was before the offense. It is incumbent
on the one who first is aware of the offense to initiate communication. If you
have sinned against a brother, then go talk to him about it and get it
straightened out, even small things can cause a division that God does not like.
If your brother offends you, in a sinful way, then you have a love obligation to
bring it up with him. If you can’t overlook the offense because it is sin or
because it has adversely affected the relationship, then you need to talk to
him about it. The goal is reconciliation and not revenge or punishment. The
library contacted the pastor, and see his first reactions, self defensive and
self justifying. Back to 2
“I know I turned that book back in!” Did he? No. Did he
sin? Even though it was unintentional and a small thing to most of us, he did
sin. It was not his book to have and hold. (Our lessons will be better
learned if we do not dismiss or excuse the small things.) Although, he ultimately
did what was right before the Lord, he has a little struggle with being accused
of something he was sure he had not done. I think this is totally normal for
most of us, but he did not let it end there. He and family searched with due
diligence to find the missing book. And then, he showed the proper example to
his sons by taking them with him to defend his case at the library. (The sons
probably learned more from this whole episode than anyone else and will be
better for it.) When we think we are accused of wrong falsely, it is a good
idea to listen to the accuser who certainly has a different, and perhaps more
accurate perspective than our own. Good and open communication if part of
the Justice model.
Just a short word on bad communication. If someone accuses you of something, there is no need to immediately become defensive and try to talk your way out of responsibility. Do not think that to be accused is to be guilty. No one has any right or authority from God to accuse or condemn without proof and especially when the accuser is personally involved. Work your way through to good communication and reconciliation. Back to 3
The pastor communicated back with his accuser and
declared his innocence, the circumstances, and his diligence to locate the
missing book. Was this right? Or should he have just plead guilty and paid the
fine? He was totally correct, from a Kingdom perspective, to defend himself.
Even though he was really guilty, he told it just the way he saw it. Make
believe humility is not part of Justice.
Now, who had the authority to forgive the debt or demand replacement of the book? God? The Librarian? Or the pastor himself? Of course the librarian had the choice to enforce a penalty or to do as he did in erasing the charge. Does this mean that the pastor could have put pressure on the librarian to get an easy outcome. No! Any pressure to manipulate someone we have wronged is a perversion of Justice. God sees straight though that kind of action. This judgment by the librarian, to forgive the debt, was a demonstration of mercy. Mercy always has the characteristic of helping someone who can not help themselves. Notice, I said it required a judgment to determine whether to have mercy or to require replacement of the book, plus a possible fine. The librarian would be perfectly just to decide either way. It might also be noted that the librarian was most graceful, giving a gift, because the pastor did not offer to make restitution at this point. He only declared his innocence.
Think of God as the supreme Judge of the Kingdom, who has given all authority to judge over to the Lord Jesus. He has instituted Justice in the Church so that we might learn to work out disagreements, disputes, and sins among ourselves first. (This includes sin in troubled marriages.) This is actually to be preferred to having to give Him an answer for our misdeeds and our offenses toward our brothers and sisters. He is more strict than one can imagine with the unrepentant and will not show mercy to those who have not been merciful. Back to 4
There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed!
(Let none of us think that anyone gets away with anything.) This was true mercy
of the Holy Spirit to bring forth the hidden book. The pastor was given an
opportunity to make a wrong into a right, to teach his sons a lesson in
righteousness, to lead his family as a Godly father and husband, and besides all
that, he passed his personal test. What test? Every person’s character is
tested by life events and the results affect his heavenly reward. Each of us
have similar opportunities to pass (or fail) the tests of life.
A refinement: When the pastor declared, “It’s a done deal” he set aside his capacity to here from the Lord on the matter. Well, who has not done that? Still the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, came along side the boy to help the dad. This reminds me of Samuel who, in his boyish innocence, heard the voice of the Lord calling when the high priest’s ears where dulled. If any of us conclude a matter, we assume that God has nothing more to say about it, but He is faithful to work out His purposes in us. God will use donkeys, wise men or fools, bosses, spouses and little children to get our attention. It does not matter how we hear as long as we hold a continuing desire to hear Him when He speaks. Back to 5
“Okay, Dad, what do we do now?” I think this man
heard from the Lord, because he then recites the path to forgiveness and
reconciliation. (with the library) There is a predictable pattern when God gives
us instructions in Righteousness. It is the path of Repentance. ( I’m afraid
we’ve lost touch with what is involved in Repentance following the idea that “I
did that when I got saved, so I don’t need to do that again” kind of thinking.)
In the God’s Justice system, Repentance is the most wonderful gift that we could
hope for. It is a chance to change our minds and actions, to make wrongs into
rights and to be changed to be more like Jesus. Imagine, if we had only one,
two, or even three times to ‘get it right’ and then faced the Judgment of God.
Wow, I’d be a fried critter for sure! How ‘bout you, reader?)
Back to 6
Repentance always has these components:
a. Godly sorrow
b. Admission and confession of responsibility
c. A change of mind and actions
d. Communication with the other person
e. Restitution (apologies are often not enough)
f. Asking for forgiveness or mercy or both
Strengthening the relationship.
The pastor shows a great attitude in offering to pay
for the book, even if it cost $100! But the real life questions most Christians
need to adjust for their own lives are more like, “Is making restitution or
making amends really necessary? Shouldn’t we be released from obligations if
the other person is a real believer? Are they unforgiving if they expect
I fear that the self-love and greed triumph over righteousness in many situations. If this were not so, would we see so many broken relationships in the Body of Christ?
My answer, which I think reflects the heart of God, is
this: Do what ever is necessary to repair the relationship though it costs all
you have. Do what is right. Demonstrate love for God and love for the other
person. Put yourself last and you will come out ahead.
Lev 19:15-18, Luke 17:3, Matt 18:15, 1 Cor 5, Acts 5:1
Luke 6:41, Matt 18:15-17, Lev 19
Luke 17:3, Numbers 14:11-23, Col 3:12-14, Matt 6:14, Matt 18:35, John 20:21-23, Mark 2:10
Matt 18:15-17, Luke 17:1-4, 1 Cor 5:1-7, Lev 19:17, Ex 20-23
Luke 10:30-37, Matt 18:33, Matt 9:12, Matt 17:15-18, Matt 23:23.
Matthew 5:23, Gen 2:18, Luke 10:27
Rev 3:19, Acts 26:20, Luke 13:3, 2 Cor 7:10, Luke 15:7, Heb 6:4-6, Jer 15:19,
Nu 5:5-7, Luke 19:8-10, Acts 26:20, Ex 22-23, Prov 14:9
1 John 3:7-10, Matthew 6:33, Is 42:1-4, Ps 89:14-15, Luke 18:1-8, Matt 21:43, Matt 5:17-20, Luke 11:42, Matt 23:23