Lent is a season during which I’ve put myself on trial. Prayers and Scripture reading lead me into set-aside time for examination, for opening myself to the Holy Spirit’s questioning and conviction.
As it turns out, I was summoned for jury duty during this same period. On day one, a fellow jury candidate sat next to me wearing a ball cap and matching tank top, both printed with the words “Death Squad.” I leaned over to him and said, “Smart move.” He chuckled and gave me a thumbs-up, acknowledging he did it to avoid being selected to the jury. (I couldn’t help but wonder if, years from now, I might happen to be summoned as a juror on his case.)
I don’t know if this is typical, but the accused sat in the courtroom with us during the jury selection process, emotionless alongside his defense attorney. I looked at him closely and recognized the man…as myself.
Lent is a time when we do not resist arrest. We go before the Judge. We acknowledge our thievery, the moments we have stolen for selfish pursuits.
During the selection process, it was the prosecuting attorney who hit me with a number of questions once she heard of my vocation as a minister. Her queries had a common theme, and went something like this: “Am I correct that in your line of work, much of what you do is about showing mercy and forgiveness?”
I told her that it depends on how much the person puts in the offering.
It was obvious that to win her case, the prosecuting attorney didn’t want a jury comprised of kindhearted, second-chance-giving people. I’m not saying that accurately describes who I am, but it was her perception of me based on my vocation. On day two, I was dismissed as a possible juror. (The Defense Attorney, I’m fairly certain, loved me and hated to see me go.)
Throughout the selection process, I continually asked myself, “What would love do? Would love declare not guilty? Would love forgive?” If I were that man in the hot seat, I would want love to reign. I could easily see how love would show mercy and forgiveness. And I also acknowledged that love – specifically, tough love – could lead to the eventual betterment of the alleged criminal. I know I personally have benefited from transformational tough love.
The answer to “what would love do?” didn’t dawn on me until after I was dismissed from the jury. While reading in Romans 5, it struck me with knee-buckling force:
Love not only forgives, love takes our place.
The enlightening verses I read in Romans 5, along with personal commentary, went like this:
You see, at just the right time, when I was still powerless, Christ died for my ungodliness. Christ went before the Death Squad. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for me in this: While I was still a sinner – guilty in a case with overwhelming evidence against me – Christ died for me.
This past Sunday morning, while participating in communion, I reflected on my jury duty experience. As I held the cup and the bread, I confessed that I did do the crime, I have sinned.
I thanked God for forgiveness. Jesus unfairly yet willingly stood before a mob of people wearing “Death Squad” shirts and hats.
In this Lenten season I come out of hiding because Love has taken my place.