Here’s what the High Court decided this morning (April 7):
- Kong Hee’s sentence reduced from 8 years to 3.5 years
- Serina Wee: From 5 years to 2.5 years
- Tan Ye Peng: From 5.5 years to 3 years and 2 months
- Chew Eng Han: From 6 years to 3 years and 4 months
- John Lam: From 3 years to 1.5 years
- Sharon Tan: From 21 months to 7 months
With the news filtering in about the reduced sentences upon appeal for those involved in the City Harvest Church saga, it is tempting to let loose with our unrestrained, unfiltered views. Fair? Unfair? Thank God? Where’s the justice?
We must learn to appreciate justice because ours is a just God. It’s there in Jeremiah 9:24: That because God is righteous, He must be fully just.
But there is a third track of His character in the same verse that we have to apply in our response to the verdict: He is the God of love.
Justice is meted out in love. For our own good, that we might learn and sieve out on this earth that which has no place with us in heaven.
That is why He appointed judges among us, and commanded us to abide peaceably with their decisions (Romans 13:1), presupposing a non-corrupt judiciary.
Now for our part in the process.
There is no sadder sight than a brother who delights in the suffering of the other. That is why the judicial process already exists: To ensure the one who transgresses is equitably dealt with.
There is nothing more unnecessary than fiery darts stemming from friendly fire, when Lord knows we have more than enough warfare on our hands without worrying about collateral damage.
Let the mockers mock. Let the haters hate. It is what they will do, according to John 16:3. But the spiritually mature must learn to discern the response that is good from that which is evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).
HOW SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN RESPOND TO THE CITY HARVEST VERDICT?
We have lessons to draw from Galatians 6.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work. (Galatians 6:1-4, NKJV)
There are three main things to consider in our response:
Our response must be premised on how it would help the man entangled in transgression. Any other response directed at him is unhelpful, unkind, unnecessary. Where do we draw the gentleness to view him kindly? Galatians 6 comes right after Galatians 5 – the famous passage on the Fruit of the Spirit. Gentleness flows out of the body that is fully submitted to the Spirit.
In fact, in classic Biblical fashion, we are called to go the extra mile: Not only should we not add to his burdens, we bear them with him.
Did you know that before the Judges hearing his appeal, Tan Ye Peng pleaded with the judge to increase his own sentence, if the church staff, Serina Wee and Sharon Tan, could have theirs reduced?
It was his one chance to state his case – his one chance to get a lighter sentence – and he used it to help others.
We are all given voice on social media. How we use it makes a difference. It’s such an easy opportunity to kick a man who is down, and the church he represents. How intentional will we be about keeping the venom out of our vocabulary? If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart – this man’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
3. REFLECTION (AND REPENTANCE)
If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
The problem with the judgmental spirit: The plank in our eye. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it. (Matthew 7:1)
If one thing constructive comes out of the whole saga, it’s that churches and other religious organisations now know they have to be much more rigorous and disciplined with their bookkeeping. This can only be a good thing, with laws ensuring we are blameless even in the sight of men.
Process maturely what needs to be processed among your friends, cell groups, congregations. Speak objectively. Draw the lessons we have to. But do not curse, do not stumble, do not scorn. Our posture must be that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
For by our love for one another will all men know we are His disciples. Our testimony as the church of the God – who is as much about love as He is justice and righteousness – must start now.