In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov, the court judgments lack any moral guidance. Dmitri Fyodorovich’s defense attorney defends him to advance his own career, even though he believes Dmitri is guilty. The prosecutor Ippolit Kirillovich seeks to appease the listening crowd at the trial. His last words appeal for the jurors to support Russia more than for them to seek truth: “Remember that you are the defenders of our truth, the defenders of holy Russia, of her foundations, of her family, of all that is holy in her!” Without a moral impulse in the courtroom, Dmitri is wrongly convicted of his father’s murder.
King Jehoshaphat faced a choice: continue to pursue alliances that had no moral rationale or godly blessing or change his ways to honor the Lord. Thankfully, though Jehoshaphat had made some terrible decisions and barely escaped with his life, his heart was still set on seeking God (v. 3).
Jehoshaphat’s acknowledgment of God’s mercy compelled him to call on Jerusalem to fear God. Wanting his own people to avoid wrath, he exhorted them to judge rightly, and he made provisions for adjudicating difficult cases (vv. 5–7). Notice the central motivation that Jehoshaphat urged his judges, priests, Levites, and tribal leaders to maintain: a fear of the Lord (vv. 7, 9). God’s holiness is the only standard for true justice, and He is always with us to know the inclinations of our hearts.
Following God’s standard for justice requires courage (v. 11). Sometimes we must make formative and corrective judgments to promote godliness, Christlikeness, and discipleship. In order to judge wisely, we must have the fear of the Lord, knowledge of His Word, and courage to stand for Him even when it is challenging.
The Scriptures command us to hold one another accountable to Christian standards of living (1 Cor. 5:12; Titus 3:10). This is loving. When judgments of corrective discipline are necessary, we must commit ourselves to prayer and patience in such situations. We are called to be instruments of God’s holiness.