Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com

As I begin to write this column, the Supreme Court just handed down a pretty big 9-0 decision in the Colorado Versus Donald Trump case. Reactions on social media are, predictably, all over the map. Depending on one’s entrenched views, the SCOTUS has either affirmed or destroyed democracy itself, and is either to be commended and respected or utterly gutted and perhaps even disbanded.

In another week or so, the potential is for those views to be either utterly reversed or entrenched even further when the SCOTUS takes up the presidential immunity case.

The SCOTUS, though, is merely the final stop in the judicial system of the United States, nine justices at the top of the food chain. If my research is correct, there are 881 federal judges beneath the SCOTUS, as well as a massive number of U.S. magistrate judges, bankruptcy judges, armed forces judges, administrative law judges, and a host of others at the federal level. And then there are approximately 30,000 state judges. Beneath that, there are municipal, county, and justice courts in some states. People will find themselves dealing with judges over criminal matters, family matters, real estate transactions, traffic citations and so much more that it is safe to say that absolutely everyone will have their lives impacted by a judge or ten during their lifetime.

Remind me sometime to tell you about the judge who I saw slam his fist down on the bench in frustration and shout “Do you wanna argue like a lawyer, boy?” at a man “representing himself” who had absolutely no clue what he was doing. It was a fun moment.

Anyway, since absolutely everyone is going to be impacted by judges at some point, and since judges hold such a sacred and powerful position (which some treat as sacred, and others treat as a filthy fiefdom) it would be a great idea, I think, for judges everywhere to know what God Himself, the ultimate judge, expects of them.

Most obviously, God expects judges to be absolutely even-handed to everyone. Proverbs 20:10 says, “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.” It means that the weights were always to be the same and the measuring rods were always to be the same in our dealings with everyone. Leviticus 19:15 put it this way, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” So, absolutely nothing, not skin color, not financial status, nothing at all is to make a judge go harder or easier on anyone than he would on anyone else.

And then there is the matter of punishment and purpose. God began the judicial system among mankind with this rule and expectation: Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. In the New Testament, we find it put this way in Romans 13:3-4, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Judges, then, are never to be a terror to good works, but are to be a consistent terror to evil works. They are never to turn a courtroom into a revolving door for criminals, giving them a wink and a nod and setting them free to continue their assault on the public. In fact, they are to very quickly stop evil in its tracks. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Rapists and robbers and murderers and abusers should know that, once the cuffs click onto their wrists, the next stop will be to stand before a judge, and the next stop after that will be a very long time behind bars, and if warranted (as is the case with rape and murder) capital punishment.

The third purpose dovetails off of the second, and is found in Psalm 82:3-4 which says, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” When judges and justice act appropriately, the innocent and powerless will find themselves defended from the wicked and powerful. This will often mean that judges must rule against the very government that employs them, since government is often the biggest trampler of the powerless.

Judges are also never to be swayed from right decisions by outside pressure. The most famous case of this in history is doubtless that of Pontius Pilate, who multiple times proclaimed Christ to be innocent, was determined to set him free (Acts 3:13) and yet gave in to the howling mob and handed him over to be crucified. He has rightly borne the scorn of the world for 2000 years based on his acquiescence. Judges, I cannot imagine the pressure you must face day in and day out, especially in the social media/viral video age. But your position is sacred. So do right, and disregard the howling mobs.

Lastly, judges must never start with a goal in mind and work toward it. The day a judge determines to “get someone” or to “get someone off,” he or she is nothing more than an activist, and should lay down the gavel in favor of a pom-pom. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

In Luke 18:6, Jesus called a judge an unjust judge. That is a shocking indictment. And yet, everyone, including everyone currently wearing a black robe, will one day stand before that same Jesus and answer to him. Your honor, make sure you have done your job well enough not to draw the same indictment from him.

Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.

Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner