Sir Jeremy Cooke – Rough Justice 06.03.2018.

Posted: 24 March 2018

Sir Jeremy Cooke – Rough Justice



  1. A successful tycoon was suffering from depression and felt he had lost all his business flair. He found it difficult to make decisions any more. He went to his GP for a check up who referred him to a brain specialist- not on the NHS naturally- but on a private basis.
    1. There he was told that he was suffering from burn out, and that his brain was prematurely old and worn out, but not to worry, with modern brain transplant surgery, he could soon have a new one.
    2. He asked about the cost and was told that it depended on what type of brain he wanted. They were a bit short of supply at the time but there seemed to be some spare legal brains about from overworked lawyers who had died young at their desks.
    3. So he could have a junior barrister’s brain for £30,000. a QC’s brain for £50,000 and a Judge’s brain for £200,000.
    4. That’s absurd, said the tycoon, A judge’s brain cannot be worth 4 times as much as that of a QC.
    5. Oh yes it can, came the reply, you see it’s as good as new- it has hardly ever been used.
  1. I am here today, I suspect because I am a Judge and a Christian. Many people appear to think that there is something wrong with both Judges and Christians- that both need brain transplants.
    1. The Tabloids think Judges need transplants because they let offenders off too lightly and do not do justice so far as the victims and society are concerned. Many people share that concern – our justice is rough and ready but not, in their view, rough enough.
    2. Others think that Christians need brain transplants, if they suggest that God is going to hold us to account, do justice, judge the world and punish wrongdoing.
  1. So there are 2 conflicting ideas here. Judges should punish more in order to do justice. God should not punish at all. Why is that?
  1. Inbuilt in us is the need for justice and a sense of justice.
    1. From earliest days, what does a child say, when he/she feels hard done by? It’s not fair. But it goes wider than simply injustice to themselves. They want games to be played by the rules.
    2. And when you hear of beheadings in Iraq or Syria, of Alice Gross, of paedophilia rings exploiting youngsters, or murder or other serious wrongdoing, your automatic reaction is that something must be done about it. It cannot be left as it is- we think in terms of equivalence- reparation, of payment for the crime or compensation– a balancing of the scales– of justice.
    3. The Christian suggests that the reason for this is because we are made in the image of God and justice is part of His character. That’s the way we are because that is the way He is. But when faced with the idea of God judging, we baulk at it. Human rough justice yes. God’s justice- No – not sure about that at all.
  1. Here is another oddity. People often say: “if there is a God, why doesn’t He do something about all the injustice, unfairness, wrongdoing and evil in the world? Why does he not stop murders, rapes, child abuse and genocide?” And they use that as an argument for not believing in God. Implicit in this is the notion that God ought to be good, righteous and just. There is a recognition that a good and just God ought to do something.  It is I suggest, impossible to conceive of a good God who, without more, would treat Mother Theresa/ Francis of Assisi or Nelson Mandela in the same way as He would treat Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot or a serial ritual  murderer of children. The idea that God is untroubled by serial murders, genocide or paedophilia is unthinkable, isn’t it? What would you think of a God who either saw no difference between good and evil or did nothing about it? Surely He must do something about evil. Isn’t it inevitable that a Just God will do justice and will, unlike human judges, get it absolutely right?
  1. Jesus told a story of a bad judge, described as an unjust judge. This man was self contained. He neither feared God nor cared what others thought of him. He was hard bitten and cynical about justice and was seeing out his time on the bench until he could take up his index linked pension. There was a widow in that town who had been cheated, who kept making applications to him to get her case dealt with, but he could not be bothered with a litigant in person and did nothing. Eventually however he got so fed up with her continual applications that he said to himself: “Though I do not care about God, justice, truth or what the LC (Minister of Justice) thinks of me, this widow keeps pestering me, people can see it, the press may find out and I am embarrassed. I will not get any peace until I deal with her case. So he had her case listed and dealt with it properly, doing justice by her. Jesus said- If that is what a cynical, world-weary corrupt judge does, the one thing you can be absolutely certain of is that God will ultimately bring about justice. I wonder what you think that will involve.
  1. But He does not do so now and some people complain of that, when they see the consequences of evil in the suffering of humanity. Why doesn’t God do something to stop it? But what exactly is it that you want God to do? 
    1. Stop people making choices?
    2. Or eliminate evil?
    3. But what evil? All wrongdoing?  All those who commit it?
    4. Or some intermediate level between the two?  And, if so, where is the line to be drawn?
    5. Perhaps you want Him to sort out the wrongs which others have done to you, or those with whom you feel affinity, but not those wrongs you have done to others. Or just the most obvious gross examples of crime, but nothing in any area where you might possibly be seen to be at fault. Destroy the evil in others, that’s fine- but leave my little failings out of it. That does not sound very moral or much like justice, does it?
  1. Jesus once said: “out of the heart come evil thoughts, theft, murder, immorality, malice, greed, deceit, envy arrogance, lies and slander”. He is saying that crime has the same root cause as the other things we see as wrong, but regard as less serious.
    1. Elsewhere He points out that anyone who is angry with or hates another, has the same root problem as the man who murders. The man who is jealous or envious and covets what others have, has the same root problem as the man who steals. 
    2. There may be different types of crime and wrongdoing but the root cause ultimately is not difficult to spot is it? It can be put very simply. It is our tendency to put our own interests first- to do what we want, even if it damages others. We all suffer from that syndrome, do we not, and justice requires it be dealt with.
    3. Did you read the Times sports writer decrying Kevin Petersen and Roy Keane as men who thought the world centred round themselves and could not understand it when others in the team did not see it that way? Yet we all have that issue in reality don’t we?
  1. Geoff Boycott joke
  1. And that is surely the ultimate problem. We put ourselves in the place of God. What about the way we treat Him? The Ruler of the Universe, who looks for loyalty and wants us to serve Him in a Father /Son relationship and to act as His agents for good in His creation. What should a just God do about those who refuse to treat Him as God? What does a state do with those who rebel and commit treason? What should the Queen and her organs of govt do about anarchists and terrorists who act outside the rule of law and seek the overthrow of govt? What can a father do with a son, who rejects him as Father?  The requirements of justice when authority and family relationship are rejected  means that consequences are inevitable – alienation, exile, separation, exclusion.
  1. Jesus made it clear that God’s requirements could be summed up in 2 basic tenets: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength; Love your neighbour as yourself. But we don’t- we find we can’t even if we try. And that is without mentioning loving our enemies and behaving like the Good Samaritan- all the good we could have, but have failed to do.
  1. Like it or not, we are rebels because we do not submit to God. We are wayward children who do not respond to a caring father. We are like the Prodigal son in taking what God gives but rejecting His Fatherhood- his authority. We do not naturally want to be ruled by God – we want to be autonomous- to  be independent of the God who made us and claims our loyalty. We do not naturally love God with all of what we are, nor care for others as we care for ourselves. So we stand in the dock where God’s justice is concerned. We are prodigal sons who stray far away – outside His family- outside His kingdom.
  1. Some years ago, there was a band called Fun loving Criminals. I think that we often see ourselves a bit like that. There is not too much really wrong with us in not bowing the knee to God. But what is God to do? Where can a God of perfect justice draw a line in degrees of disregard of him, levels of selfishness and levels of evil? What lies at the heart of the criminal mind lies at the heart of all of us, in our minds, wills and attitudes to life. We do not truly allow God to be God in our own lives. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. If we are all fun loving criminals, then we are part of the problem that we recognise that God ought, in justice to sort out.
  1. There is here both a problem of justice and a problem of relationships. Justice requires a balancing of the scales, whilst the relationship requires reconciliation, with forgiveness and restoration. How can that be sorted?  God has an answer and it is perhaps, a  surprising one.
  1. A Frenchman introduced himself to an Englishman. Bon jour, je m’appelle Déjà vu. Hello- I’m Déjà vu, to which the Englishman replied: Haven’t we met somewhere before. We all have some déjà vu/ shadowy idea that we know what the cross is about. It confirms what we instinctively know. We cannot put things right: Only God can put it right.  His answer to the problem is remarkable. God’s justice is met by God himself. He makes it possible for the prodigal to  be reconciled.
  1. His answer to the problem is one which escapes many people. Instead of eliminating evil now, including us, God achieves justice by suffering the penalty of all crime and wrongdoing Himself. He takes responsibility for it all. The act of crucifying Jesus is the epitome of wrongdoing. It is the ultimate attempt to do away with God and be independent of Him. But that very act is also the solution. It is unthinkable in human society that the Head of State/Judge should meet the demands of justice for the crime instead of the criminal. But that is the message of the cross. A God who cannot stand injustice suffers all the injustice of man by taking human form and dying as if He were the criminal- the wrongdoer. He deliberately lets men murder Him through corrupt processes of law and unjust punishment, and takes on himself the evil of the world and its consequences. And the Father welcomes the Prodigal son home, with forgiveness, restoration and joyful celebration, because His Son has taken the blame.
  1. One of Jesus followers explains in a letter why God does not do justice and eliminate evil here and now. It is to give us a chance of coming home. God offers us a pardon in Jesus, reconciliation and rehabilitation, with His Spirit, if we will come home to Him. Human judges may be stupid. Human justice may be rough and ready. But God’s justice is perfect and will surely come. But His solution is perfect too, if we will avail ourselves of it. It is our choice.