Fair and Impartial Judgement

My daughter is reading the novel series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. We watched one of the movies and I was struck by a scene featuring ‘The Lotus Hotel and Casino,’ an oasis in the desert. Anyone who enters never wants to leave. Luxury suites, addictive food, enticing drinks, thrilling games, and unimaginable pleasures detain you. You won’t spend any money at Lotus. They cover all financial expenses. In fact, you won’t even age. But you remain there at great cost. You forget…     

Upon entering, the heroes in the story are given a suite and eat the potent lotus flower treats that put them in a sleepy, intoxicated-like state. Percy Jackson, the leader, senses something is wrong, but he indulges anyway. There are no clocks or windows inside so people are kept in ignorance of the urgency of life outside. They indulge. They relax. They forget. No mission. No urgency. No worries. No judgment.

It reminds me how the Bible talks about the enticements of the world. They captivate, seduce, and destroy. They blind us to the urgency of following Jesus and make us forget the reality of God’s Judgment. But judgment is coming whether we’re ready or not. Paul talks about that in chapter 2 of Romans: 

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. -Romans 2:6–11

Like smelling salts, Paul waves the truth of God’s judgment under our noses. He makes three points. God’s judgment is a reality, it’s objective, and it’s impartial. 

It’s a REALITY: What could be more important, more relevant or more urgent than considering either your eternal happiness or your eternal misery. We have this vapor on the time continuum called “life,” and then we face either wrath, fury, tribulation, and distress (Paul’s words). Or we face eternal life, peace, glory, and immortality. 

We swim in distractions. We entertain ourselves to death. We binge. We dream. We quickly and easily grow numb to reality. Like the Lotus Hotel and Casino, earth holds out ample seductions to weaken our sense of urgency and lull us to sleep. 

Although it’s more certain than our next breath, we forget judgment is coming. It’s more certain that the sun rising in the morning or you finishing this blog. It’s more urgent than mid-term elections, the economy, the fate of bit-coin, or anything else! 

It’s hurricane season in Florida. Our state officials are so certain we’ll encounter a deadly storm, they grant us an entire week to purchase hurricane supplies—tax free! Generators. Batteries. Flashlights. Tarps. Radios. Prepare while you can, and save some bucks. That’s wise. The irony is that we’re not even certain a deadly storm will hit our coast this season. But God’s judgment? It’s an appointment we won’t miss.  

Paul begins and ends this section talking about a “day of wrath.” It’s fixed. It’s set. It’s coming, just like next Friday. It’s a day when the secrets of men will be revealed; when our works will be examined; when final judgment will be rendered.   

On that day, God will separate believers from unbelievers, righteous from unrighteous, sheep from goats, those who followed Jesus from those who refused. 

Our human justice system suffers from flaws and imperfections. A person’s crimes may never be discovered. They may flee from local jurisdictions. They may be pronounced innocent because of lazy prosecution. Or they may escape from prison. But God’s judgment will not suffer any of those flaws. It’s perfect. No escape.  

It’s OBJECTIVE: There will be certain criteria for God’s judgment—but only one kind. Our works, what we have done. In the end, the public evidence at the Judge’s bench will be good deeds or bad. How you lived your life.  

I grew up watching G.I. Joe after school. The show always ended with, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Turns out G.I. Joe was right. Knowing is only half. But the other half is doing. That’s Paul’s point in arguing about God’s criteria for judgment. 

The criteria won’t be what you knew, how much Bible you read, or creeds you recited. We won’t be quizzed on Bible trivia at the judgment. Our lives will be considered.  

 Understandably, that sets people on edge. It’s uncomfortable and disturbing. It can also be confusing, because earlier, Paul said we’re not justified by works. It’s faith that matters. He’s not contradicting himself. Let’s give Paul intellectual credit. This section is not setting the criteria for salvation. It’s stating the standard for judgment. Paul will spend several chapter proving our justification is by faith alone. But here he talks only of judgment. We’re not saved by our works, but we’ll be judged by them. They can’t save us, but they can condemn us. Genuine faith will produce works that honor God. 

He’s not talking about perfection, but direction. Works follow faith. The entire Bible makes that case—Jesus included. He said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). Faith without works is a sham. It’s dead, false, and worthless. But those who follow Jesus have nothing to fear.  

It’s IMPARTIAL: God’s Judgment is based on truth. In a human courtroom, serving justice is not easy. We need attorneys, witnesses, experts, and a jury. We need to establish a time line, motives, collaboration, and alibis. We collect evidence. We call witnesses. We watch security footage. And still, our best judgment is flawed.   

But not God’s. He sees all. He hears all. He knows all—even the hidden motives of the heart. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch over the good and the evil” (Pr. 15:3). So how can his judgment not be fair, impartial, and just? 

God’s impartiality means he has no favorites but treats every person the same, whether Jew or Gentile. Whether white or black. Whether religious or irreligious. Whether American or Asian. Nationality, ethnicity, cultural or political background, denominational affiliation, and economic status have no bearing on God’s judgment. He is impartial. 

That word means “to lift the face.” When making judgments, people look at the person. How important are they? How much wealth or influence to they bring to the table? Can they bribe me or improve my station? Let me see their face first. God is not swayed by a person’s face. He rules impartially. 

Closing out that section, Paul says “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Is the Judgment of God good news? That depends. Have you embraced the rescue of Jesus from your sins? Then judgment is good news for two reasons. First, it reminds you what Jesus rescued you from. It deepens your appreciation of grace.  

Jesus took the fury, distress, and tribulation on your behalf. He bore God’s curse. He absorbed all the wrath you and I deserve for our sins. Jesus took our judgment.  

Secondly, it’s good news because God will right every wrong. Truth will triumph. Justice will prevail. Aren’t we tired of partial judges. Haven’t we grown weary of leaders who abuse their power, show favor the elite, exonerate their friends, and hold their enemies to a higher standard? That day will end. 

The judgment Paul speaks of is public. So it’s open and people will feed vulnerable, uncovered, and exposed. But consider Jesus, the judge who became our savior. On the cross, his arms were outstretched. He was naked, bloody, and nailed in place. Can you get any more vulnerable than that? He looked down and saw his friends who had betrayed him, the Romans who crucified him, and his people who rejected him. He looked up and saw His Father who abandoned Him. And in the greatest act of love and friendship the world has ever seen, He stayed. That’s our Savior. That’s our hope.