Today I went to court.
No, it wasn’t for me. I’m not a fugitive or have any outstanding warrants (at least I hope I don’t!). I was there in support of a friend.
If you know me, you know that I absolutely love to watch people. So for me, this time in a Nashville courtroom was an absolute feast! It wasn’t a huge room, but it was fairly packed, and it seemed like one of every tribe on earth was represented. I saw black and white and brown and olive and yellow. Some folks were red from embarrassment, and some were ashen from fear. There were a few who had moral support in the form of family or friends, but most were alone.
They all had one thing in common. They were all there to be judged.
The hearing was scheduled for 10:30am, and after dropping off my friend, I circled the building until I found the closest (and cheapest) parking spot. I walked three blocks or so through icy winds and a small, cold rain. After passing through security, I arrived in the courtroom, found a seat, and dug in for what proved to be a long morning.
As fascinating as it was from a people watching standpoint, it was a strange scene. The judge and public defenders and bailiff were sitting there, chatting each other up as if they were in the break room. The court secretary sat behind a PC, drinking soda and munching on chips or something. One lawyer brought Girl Scout cookies! It seemed like nothing was going on. After a few minutes of sitting there, waiting for court to be in session, we realized that court WAS in session.
Finally someone got up to announce that if your name began with the letter A-K and you didn’t have an attorney, then come line up and check in. A lady then repeated these instructions in Spanish. Slowly, the line of the guilty assembled.
The books were opened, as it were…
Forget every courtroom drama you’ve seen on TV or in the movies. The strange thing was the absence of drama. A man in a black robe sitting in a high seat was dispensing justice with the nonchalance of a fast food worker. The people on the receiving end of said justice ran the gamut from abasement to boredom. As I said, a very strange scene indeed.
All of the people on the docket were guilty of some kind of offense. And for the most part, none of them had anyone to speak on their behalf or in their defense. They were guilty as charged and were resigned to their fates.
I guess what bothered me…no, what angered me was the indifference. Lives were being changed in serious ways, and the Law was seemingly immune to the people it was judging. Certainly, these people had made poor choices and were now reaping what they had sown. I’m not suggesting that the judge passed incorrect judgements…it was that it was just another day at the office. But the mood changed when a certain name was called. A young Arabic man spoke up and informed the judge that his friend was on the way, but running late. The judge snapped out of his indifference and made an angry and sarcastic noise. But it wasn’t righteous indignation at an affront to justice; he commented later that he didn’t want to be late for lunch.
I think that’s what Law has become. Indifferent. Inconvenienced. So secure in the black and white world, the granite-carved rule of Law makes it far too easy to lose the mercy and grace that humanity so poorly deserves but desperately needs.
I was in that courtroom today to support a friend. There was nothing I could do or say that could change the outcome of the verdict. But it was important to be there…to give comfort and encouragement. To have spoken if the opportunity had arisen, but in the absence of words, just ‘to be’…
To be an advocate.
I thank God for Jesus Christ. We always say that Christ lives in our heart, but we know that God as Holy Spirit resides in our transformed hearts. But we know that Jesus is in bodily form at the right hand of the Father, before the very Throne of God.
He’s not there simply ruling. He’s there working…but not with indifference. He works even now with true and holy passion.
I know that I’m guilty and deserve every punishment to fit my crimes. But even now, before my day in court truly comes, Jesus is pleading my case before the Father. I won’t have to stand alone, trembling with fear from the weight of my guilt and shame. My debt has been paid by Christ and I will one day stand in the very presence of God and be pronounced innocent.
Why does Christ do this?
He’s my Advocate…
ad·vo·cate [n. ad-vuh-kit]
a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
Father, thank you for this day. Thank you that you are my Advocate. Help me not to be a judge, but to be a person who pleads for Mercy and Grace and Love in everything I do.