At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly — not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.

"Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?" The words came from a thin, starving young girl. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror … beatings … torture …death!"

In another group, a man lowered the collar on his shirt revealing an ugly rope burn on his neck, "What about this ... I was lynched for no crime, for no reason other than the color of my skin."

All across the plain, there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in the world. "How lucky God was to live in heaven, where all was sweetness and light ... no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred. What did God know of all that humans had been forced to endure in this world?” — they were saying.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he or she had suffered the most — a Jewish person, a black person, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, several with various forms of disabilities — at last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

They pronounced that before God could be qualified to be their judge, he would have to endure what they had endured. Their decision was God would have to be sentenced today. Sentenced to live on earth and to live as a man who would suffer.

"Let em' be born a Jew!" "Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted!” “Let him know what it is like to be hungry!” "Let his work be so difficult that even his family will think he is out of his mind when he tries to do it!” "Let him be betrayed by his closest friends!” “Let him face false charges!” “Let him be tried by a prejudiced jury!” “Let him be convicted by a cowardly judge!” “Let him be tortured!” “Let him see what it means to be so terribly alone and then let him die! Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died!” “Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.”

As each leader pronounced the portion that he or she would add to the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people, "Yes, yes, it’s only fair! It’s only right!" “If he would judge us, he must face what we faced!” And when the last had finished pronouncing their sentence, there was a long silence.

No one dared utter another word. No one could even move. For suddenly, it dawned upon them all. That God had already served his sentence and that God would judge no one in whose shoes he had not already walked in.

If you want to know what God is like, look at the cross! Jesus, God in the flesh, suffered and died so that you could have forgiveness for your sins, and that you could spend eternity in a place without suffering and evil.

Russ Whitten preaches every Sunday at the 9:30 a.m. Harbor Worship Service at Brotula’s Restaurant, 210 US 98 in Destin and then at the 11:30 a.m. service at The Downtown Church, meeting at Enlightened Studios, 144 Miracle Strip Parkway SE in Fort Walton Beach. He can be reached at russwhitten@gmail.com.