by Bruce Strom
I dropped my sons off at their high school today. I hope they were allowing costumes as I saw cats, witches and an assortment of others entering the school. But my son had the scariest costume of all. He was a lawyer. Dressed in a sharp suit, nothing strikes more fear than a lawyer.
On one hand it is pretty funny, except it is tragically true. Halloween can be a fun time to pretend to be afraid. Little kids dressed as skeletons ring doorbells with a scary “trick or treat”. But one of those homes is almost certainly experiencing real fear. Maybe the day before the doorbell rang only this time it was a sheriff handing the scariest piece of paper imaginable – a court summons.That piece of paper turns your world upside down. It did Beth’s.
The doorbell rang and two officers demanded to see her children. Handing her papers they grabbed the young kids and placed them in the back of a squad car. Within minutes and without explanation Beth was without her children. The fear was overwhelming. Her estranged husband filed domestic violence charges against her for failing to spray the kids with mosquito repellant during a West Nile Virus outbreak (Gospel Justice, pp. 63-64).
It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragically real. Every day people are served with papers from the court, IRS or government agency. The knot in the stomach forms as the world swirls around them. At stake are families, livelihoods, homes and health. Trying to read a legal document is like reading a foreign language and the fear mounts as no one can be found to interpret the document and guide you in what needs to be done. There is no right to a free attorney and if you don’t have thousands of dollars your fear is compounded. You lose sleep. You lose hope.
The United States ranks 65th in the world for providing accessible and affordable justice. We are tied with Pakistan! In a nation that pledges justice for all that simply should not be. How can we allow millions of our neighbors to live in fear every day? In a nation that believes in fairness, how can big banks and big government bring an army of lawyers to court, while our neighbors stand alone? And as Christ followers shouldn’t we lead the way in bringing hope in the midst of hopelessness?
The Bible tells us “perfect love cast out fear.” 1 Jn. 4:18. The context is critical as John is reminding us that “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 Jn. 4:11. That love compels justice. Justice is love in action. As John writes, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 Jn. 3:17-18.
Maybe you will walk your neighborhood with children or grandchildren this weekend. In the fun of pretend fear will you take time to pray against the real fear your neighbors are experiencing? We know many of them are trapped in the justice system, carrying heavy burdens, with little hope of finding help. Pray that churches, lawyers, justice lovers, donors and others come together to free people from legal burdens. Let us bring the hope of the gospel and the help of a lawyer to neighbors in need. Let’s provide access to Jesus and access to justice. This is gospel justice.
Because a lawyer volunteered. Because others prayed and offered practical support, Beth was reunited with her children. They are part of a vibrant church in the area and Beth is part of the gospel choir. She can sing for joy because Good Samaritans loved their neighbor. The perfect love demonstrated through service cast out her fear and filled her with hope. May that hope spring up all across America as we listen to our Savior and
Go and Do Likewise!