I love both Judge Dredd movies (yes, even the Stallone version). I was watching Stallone’s epic sci-fi bonanza the other day for perhaps the 20th time. Even though I know the movie inside and out, I always find something new that I hadn’t noticed before. Because of what we’ve been studying in church for the past few weeks, my thoughts while I was watching drifted to more spiritual matters.
If you aren’t familiar with the Judge Dredd character, he is a policeman/jury/judge/executioner all in one. He lives in Mega City One, a massive metropolis of the future, and a massive city means a massive population, which means a massive amount of bad guys. Dredd is a comic book vision of a police state, and a very strict code of law is enforced to keep the volatile populace in check. Dredd is cold and merciless, though not cruel. If you break the law, however slight, you will be judged.
There have been two Judge Dredd movies, one with Sylvester Stallone playing the title character in 1995 and another movie titled Dredd with Karl Urban in 2012. There are rumors of a Judge Dredd TV series, which would have me doing a happy dance in the streets. But I digress. In the Stallone movie, Dredd’s curiously familiar enemy is locked away in a frozen prison. His name is Rico, and he makes a statement which elucidates the reasons for his actions. He says, “The innocent exist only until they inevitably become perpetrators…Guilt and innocence is a matter of timing.”
Even though this statement is made by the villain, it is easy to see how Dredd himself succumbs to this thinking. He hardly comes across anyone who isn’t technically breaking the law, and he dishes out “justice” without a second thought. He does not judge unfairly, but according to the oppressively strict code of law, no one gets away with anything.
This made me think of the Law in the Bible. So much emphasis in church is placed on God’s grace and mercy, it’s easy to forget that He has an oppressively strict code of law that condemns everyone. The innocent exist only until they inevitably become perpetrators. There are six hundred and thirteen laws in the Old Testament. To break even one of them means a sentence of death and eternal separation from God. The Law shows no mercy and applies to everyone, rich or poor, smart or simple. I think someone like Judge Dredd would enjoy the Pentateuch with its labyrinth of laws.
Of course, in the greatest cosmic conundrum imaginable, the God of infinite justice is also the God of infinite grace and mercy. He did not do away with the Law, for He is God and therefore unchanging. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. He didn’t get “softer” or less tough on crime. He did, however, provide a means of satisfying the impossible requirements of the Law by sending His son, Jesus, to take the punishment. The whole purpose of the Law is to condemn us and show how much we need salvation. We are all guilty, and God dispensed justice, but not on us perpetrators.
I wonder what Judge Dredd would say about that…