"Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-4, KJV)
Back about 1980 an elder in our church at the time was a sitting judge on the Circuit Court in Springfield Missouri. Being a life-long eclectic, I asked if I could spend some time observing how court works. He was kind enough to invite me into Chambers and introduce me to the world of backroom courthouse shenanigans. What I recall most is that it was a lot more interesting on television, and went faster, than in real life.
Last week I had my second chance to be a pure observer of a courtroom procedure. It's still better on TV. The good news, one supposes, is that years of watching fictional courts made it easier these 30 years later to follow the legal-ease. My one prior exposure also helped to accept the seeming tedium of it all.
This was to be a sentencing hearing. There was no question as to guilt, to which the defendant freely and faithfully conceded. The only issue at hand was the penalty to be paid for crimes committed against man and State.
The key mitigating circumstance presented by the defense was my correspondent's conversion experience in which he accepted Jesus as the Christ of God, acknowledged and turned away from his many past sins, and began the journey we all must take to live as He would have us live. As evidence to this new reality in his life he made no attempt in all he had put in writing to diminish or justify his crimes.
At the request of the local chapter of Celebrate Recovery ministry I had undertaken to correspond with the defendant last summer. Had never actually met him, but wanted to be as supportive as possible -- if only by attending this public hearing. As probably the only one in the room to whom he had reason to lie, I found faithful and honest his testimony as to what Christ has done in his life.
Back in some otherwise forgotten Bible study I recalled Professor Albert McGee talking about the consequences of a true salvation experience. He taught that all eternal consequences of past sin were wiped away and God remembers them no more. It would do no good to repent again, he thought, because God simply did not know about them. Men, the good professor pointed out, are not God. All of us must face and pay the temporal penalties for our acts.
My primary observation of all this was that presiding Judge Blaine Akers modeled how to be a true Christian gentleman. And, as Biblically ordained, he made a decision in keeping with God's plan for the defendant's life. It is always true that our speech betrays us, and -- while keeping intact the separation of church and state -- Blaine Akers revealed a Christian's heart.
It is not likely what I observed would have come about without the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. The Christ Community Church website states:
"By working the Christ-centered steps and applying their biblical principles found in the Beatitudes, we begin to grow spiritually. We become free from our addictive, compulsive, and dysfunctional behaviors. This freedom creates peace, serenity, joy, and most importantly, a stronger personal relationship with God and others. Celebrate Recovery meets 7 - 9 pm every Friday evening at Christ Community Church. Everyone is welcome to come and participate and find the freedom in Christ you've been looking for."
Although I've never participated in their work, the value produced in its people is easily observed. Having once as a small taste of addiction, I would recommend Celebrate Recovery for all in need of Justice.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.