For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
I was asked to sit on a volunteer jury to judge 8th grade students who were conducting what is called a “mock” trial. The students were given the facts of a murder case from South Carolina (a real case, by the way), and each of them played a role – either as the bailiff, the witnesses, the defense attorneys or the prosecutors.
I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to sit on a jury. Not anymore. Even though I practiced law for 45 years, I was only called for jury duty one time in a federal court. I was excused from duty by the Judge because of some work I was doing with the U.S. Attorney’s on another case. The mock trial was my first “real” experience as a juror sitting in judgment of another.
It was a murder case, not a car accident. The wife was charged with killing her husband with a gun, and the defense argued that she was an abused spouse and that it was self-defense.
The trial had eerie similarities to the facts of a case of a friend of ours. My wife has ministered to an inmate in prison who has a life sentence for killing her husband under similar circumstances. We visit her numerous frequently, and it is always sobering to see what her life inside a prison looks like.
In the mock trial, we were tasked with judging the effectiveness of each student’s performance. Even though it was a mock trial, we, as jurors, felt a responsibility that is hard to describe. While we weren’t actually called to make a decision on the defendant’s guilt, we ended up making our own judgments as to whether or not the defendant wife was guilty. It was harder than I thought it would be.
The students did the case twice – one time they would be on the prosecution’s side, and the other on the defense side. A real judge from a local court supervised the proceedings.
I couldn’t help but think of our inmate friend who is in jail for life without parole. She is now a Christian and knows that her ministry is in prison to those around her. I realized that the skill of the participants had a significant effect on shaping our decision.
If my imprisoned friend been able to afford better representation at her trial, she might have gotten a lesser sentence. She has 5 children and 2 grandchildren, the latter of which she has never seen. But she is not trapped by her circumstances. She has resolved to make the best of her lot, even if it is in prison.
The weight of making decisions about people’s lives is real. Our decisions were not life-changing, but in reality, the grade we assigned to those students would have some lasting effect.
There were two take-aways from my experience. The first was that the exercise for the students was an invaluable one. The students had to learn a character and the details of the case. During the trial, they had to be able to ask or answer questions to elicit evidence just as in a real courtroom proceeding. It’s this kind of exercise that improves critical thinking.
The second take-away is a spiritual one. We all will face judgment in the end, and, unlike the defendant in a real murder trial, if we are a child of God, we are forgiven and there is no condemnation.
A Christian doesn’t have to worry about the effectiveness of his counsel to be sure that he gets justice. Jesus will be our advocate before the judgment seat of God. As the song below says, we have a jailbreak because “our chains are gone”.
The challenge here is to find exercises like the mock trial for the next generation to hone their skills in doing things that increase critical thinking. Studies show that their constant attachment to the digital world causes creativity to decline. This was a great antidote.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You can help your mentees develop creativity by pressing them into interactive conversations which challenges them to think about both sides of an issue. Only if they consider both sides to an argument can they really be capable of understanding the nuances of an issue.
WORSHIP: Listen to one of my favorites by Vertical Church “I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)” reminding us that we are freed from judgment by our decision to follow Christ.
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