Lapse of Judgment

By Lim Chong Teck

In an article published on 11 August 2019 in the Star newspaper, “Suspect, wife remanded in fatal road incident on PLUS highway,” it described how a minor accident turned into an ugly confrontation of both parties who could not control their emotions and took to aggression which resulted in death and possible imprisonment for the other party.

The police officer described in short what took place. “Selangor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Fadzil Ahmat said investigations revealed the 29-year-old victim had initially rear-ended the car driven by the 40-year-old suspect just after the Sungai Besi toll plaza at around 1.40pm Saturday (Aug 10).

“Following the incident, the suspect and victim were involved in a car chase until they reached the Bandar Baru Bangi exit.

“A scuffle ensued between the two and witnesses at the scene attempted to calm them down and both parties went back to their vehicles.

SAC Fadzil added that the suspect’s car then lurched forward and hit the victim.

“The victim was pinned between the car and the road divider.

“He was subsequently rushed to the Nilai Medical Centre but died while receiving treatment,” he said, adding that the suspect and his 36-year-old wife who was also at the scene during the time of the incident have been remanded to assist investigations.”

If both parties could have seen the consequences of their actions, I am sure they would have refrained from doing such extreme acts for a minor accident. The truth is many of us are sometimes “caught” in situations that cause us to react with a lack of judgment. This lapse of judgment can cause considerable pain and regrets if we do not take steps to avoid them.

In a recent Sunday bible class taught by bro. Daryl Kirk, he expounded on a passage taken from Genesis 9 where Noah became drunk and ended up naked in his tent. Ham his son who “bumped” into his tent and saw him naked did not know how to respond. He went and informed his brothers, Shem and Japheth who closed up their father’s nakedness without seeing it.

Could it be that Noah had a lapse of judgment in getting himself drunk to the stage where he lost consciousness and was totally naked? Could it be as a husbandman who wanted to grade his grape wines that he drank more than he knew would make him drunk? Could this be the first incident of drunkenness by a man described as a righteous man? Would he not have gotten drunk if he knew the impact of the wine? The bible does not describe a repeat of such an incident by Noah.

We are also reminded of the consistent character of Noah in Eze 14:14 and believe that being a righteous man, he would stop doing something it if it is not acceptable to God. The bible warns us in Proverbs to stay away from alcoholic wine. When one is under the influence of alcohol, he does not have proper judgment and loses control of his faculties. Many sins are a result of this loss of judgment due to alcohol.

Pro 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Pro 31:4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:”

Pro 31:5  “Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”

In the account, Ham who saw his father’s nakedness did not know how to respond but his brothers knew exactly what to do. His lack of knowledge resulted in him not doing what would be right in the eyes of his father.

While these incidents may seem trivial to some but the bible has many examples that tell us  not to be caught off guard in situations when our lapse of judgment could cause us to sin and harm ourselves and others. The lapse of judgment often occurs when we are overcome by emotions or lust. At other times it could simply be due to a lack of knowledge or forgetfulness.

David was a man of considerable uprightness, but when he “accidentally” saw a naked Bathsheba, he was totally consumed by his desire to have her. His lust caused a lapse of judgment which continued until he was rebuked by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:13).

Peter as an apostle preached his first gospel sermon to the Gentiles in Acts 10. He said in Act 10:34-35, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

However in the face of opposition from his fellow Jewish members, he was caught off-guard and separated himself from the fellowship of Gentile Christians that even Barnabas was carried away. This caused Paul to admonish him for not doing the right thing (Gal 2: 11-21). Would a crowd’s view or fear cause us to have a lapse of judgment?

Moses who was considered the meekest person at that time (Num 12:3) was a man who rarely lost his temper despite being in challenging situations. But in the incident in Num 20:10-12, much to the provocation of his fellow brethren, out of anger he struck the rock although he was told by God to speak to the rock. His disobedience due to uncontrolled anger at that moment resulted in him being forfeited from entering the promised land (Num 27:13-14). His anger caused a lapse of judgment (Psa. 106: 32-33).

Joseph was sold to slavery in Egypt by his brothers. As a servant to Potiphar, he did extremely well and was given the position of second to his master, Potiphar. He was  subsequently tempted many times by Potiphar’s wife. His answer was always the same which is recorded in Gen 39:8-9: “But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master knoweth not what is with me in the house, and he hath put all that he hath into my hand: he is not greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

And finally being caught in an inescapable proposition, he ran away without his clothes to escape the situation. He did not have a lapse of judgment because his first thoughts were ones that put God first. Although he has done righteously, yet because of Potiphar’s wife’s false accusation, he was sent to prison. But he did not sin against God, his master or his own conscience.

In Matt 4:1-11, Jesus having fasted for 40 days and 40 nights was very hungry. And at this point the devil came to tempt him. In each of the temptation He answered the devil with the word of God. He was equipped with the knowledge of the word of God. All of His answers were from the word of God. In the face of challenging and unpredictable situations, knowledge and wisdom of God’s word are needed to enable one to make the right judgment and action.

When we are provoked, intimated, or tempted resulting in anger, fear or lust, can we be in control of our thoughts and actions and have them in subjection to God’s will? These few examples tells us the best way to avoid having a lapse of judgment is to always pause and ask ourselves, “What is the will of God in this situation?” “What would God have me do?”

Joseph could avoid a lapse of judgment because despite the temptation and sexual intimidation, he had God in his mind. The immediate thought was that he will not sin against God. And with this thought he avoided compromising or “just accepting” his dilemma. But running away from sin, he put his trust in God for his future.

Jesus also avoided succumbing to the temptations by guidance from the word of God. In every temptation he was able to use the word of God to give a right answer and therefore take the right action. His weakness of the flesh could not be exploited by Satan because his thoughts were governed by the word of God.

It is good always to keep God and his word as the first thoughts of consideration in difficult and challenging situations so as to avoid a lapse of judgment and have self-control of our actions so that it will not cause us to sin or harm ourselves or others.