When I practiced law, my primary focus was in the area of criminal defense. The bulk of that criminal practice was representing court appointed clients. These were folks that were charged with a crime and couldn’t afford an attorney. When I used to talk about work or now when I tell stories now about that time, some people have a noticeable reaction. They make a face, however subtle, that indicates they can’t pay attention to the details because they are hung up on the arrangement.
“How could you represent those people? They aren’t Christians and you are, so how could you represent them?” Sometimes it’s just the look but many times it’s explicitly asked. Church polite, of course, but asked just the same.
By contrast, I called my wife when I was walking out of the courthouse one day and told her, “I can’t believe that more Christians don’t choose the practice of law as their place of calling.” After all, I reasoned, where else do you get in a position where broken, desperate people come to you to ask you for your counsel and assistance? Where else is light so necessary other than in the darkest places of society?
We all need some realization of darkness to remind us of the light within us. We all need some realization of darkness to remind us of the darkness within us. The degree of separation between “them” and “us” is less than typically imagined. A twist here and a turn there in life’s circumstances can lead people into situations they never desired or planned for.
I know that I was called to what I am doing now, otherwise I would still be practicing law. The overlap in working with church folks and court appointed folks is more common than you might think. Sure, most of the church folks in the relatively privileged suburbs present themselves better than the accused and dismissed of the court appointed criminal justice system. The underlying human condition, however, is just as dark. People are people.
Here, however, is the biggest difference: the accused and convicted realize the desperation of their condition. They know they need help and are messed up and are often times desperate for any glimmer of hope. The socially acceptable, comfortable Christians often think they’ve got the deal figured out. Jesus loves them and nobody knows their stuff. Their stuff, after all, isn’t as bad as the criminal guy and likely isn’t even as rumors and gossip they’ve heard and spread about the guy across the pew.
Dark is dark and if we act like it’s light by shades of comparison, we’re cheapening the grace of Jesus Christ. He didn’t die for us to be judgmental by comparison or dismissive of the heart condition in need of redemption. He wants to transform us from glory to glory but we won’t go to the next glory if we constantly think the form of glory we’ve already experienced somehow jumped us ahead to a place of superiority.