I sat among the 11 other jurors in the courtroom and glanced at the young, thin and small-framed Asian man sitting between the two attorneys. He was in his early twenties and couldn’t have weighed more than 130 pounds. He wore a slightly oversized suit and his right leg bounced up and down as he waited in nervous anticipation for the judge to read our verdict. I caught eye contact with him and quickly glanced down as though ashamed. I saw his mom sitting in the courtroom with either his siblings or his friends. The judge spoke into the silence and began to read our verdict: we the jury find the defendant…guilty…The judge’s voice faded into background noise as he continued on with the charges. The young man sighed in hopelessness and ran both hands through his short black hair, leaving them near the top of his head as he stared downward. Then he looked over at us. His gaze was not one of anger, but of sadness, disbelief, and confusion.
I know…it feels as horrible as it sounds. I charged him guilty. I hesitantly said yes, not because I was unsure about his “crime” but because I felt that grace would be the appropriate action toward his small offense. I tried persuading the other jurors that it was silly to judge him guilty for such a small, unintentional act done by a college student. I heard the recordings. I saw the evidence. But it was silly to charge him with a criminal offense for something that happened 2 years ago, something I think many of us would have been guilty of in the same situation. But nooo…“None of us want him to be guilty, but we are bound by the law and the law would find him guilty,” the other jurors kept telling me. It didn’t matter that he didn’t intend to break the law. Whether he meant to or not, he did, so he is guilty.
And we are bound by the law. There is no grace. There is no mercy. Not within the law.
I love God’s law, but I fall short of it all the time. If He held me accountable every single time I broke His law, there would be no hope for me because there would be no grace. Haven’t we all unintentionally broken the law, yet broke it nonetheless? Therefore, according to the law, we are guilty. We have all sinned and the punishment of sin is eternal death…Hopeless, right?
After these three long days I walked away with an overwhelming gratefulness toward the One who came to set us free from the law. I am so grateful for a Judge who made a way for all my transgressions to be pardoned, who gave me grace even though I am guilty. We may try to be good people and do good things, but we are guilty. We may not intentionally break the law, as this young man did not intend to do so, yet we are still found guilty when judged by the law. I don’t intend to covet, but yet I do when I look enviously at the belongings of others. I don’t intend to be prideful, but yet I am when I boast over my accomplishments. I don’t intend to sin, but I do. And when judged by the law, I am guilty.
Because of Jesus, there is hope. God has given us great grace. And because of His grace toward all who believe upon His name, we will never be charged as guilty on that final Day of Judgment. He pardoned our sins and HIS verdict is final: guilty but given grace.