Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Romans 14-16
It happened last October, almost a year ago now. But Randolph Forde admitted this week that he’s still haunted by the ordeal. If he’s watching TV and the local news comes on, he experiences a small panic attack. “It's silly,” he said, “but I just get this nervousness—I'm afraid my face is going to show up again. I don't know why, but that's my natural response. I get nervous. Just being exposed like that really shook me up.” 1
How was Forde exposed? The once-special education high school teacher from Georgia was arrested on allegations that he offered one of his students $50 to kill a fellow student. Forde was suspected of having a personal vendetta against the student because he suspected the student was gay.
Forde adamantly denied the allegations, claiming that the student was angry with him because he had to pull him out of class for misbehaving. And last May a grand jury could find no evidence to indict him. Yet his official freedom came a bit too late. The story had not only appeared on local news, but had also made national and international headlines. He says that it’s the media frenzy that still haunts him.
Although the TV news stories have played out, Forde said that he can never escape the Internet stories that will never go away. Google his name, and dozens of pages of accusations appear. Of the twelve pages that pop up on Google, only two report that he’s been cleared and wants to move on with his life. Not only did he lose his job, but he also believes that he lost his reputation—something he feels he’ll never be able to get back.
“I'm unemployed and my name is smeared all over the world,” he said in an interview this week. “I took 15 exams to become a teacher, I have three masters' degrees and now they're worthless. You think to yourself, at least they can never take away your degree, but…you cannot use it if your name means nothing.”
Although Forde has applied for jobs and has received countless rejections, he still continues to try to convince the world what he knows to be true—that he is an innocent man. He tries for the sake of his wife, his 5-year-old son, and for himself. Yet discouragement often sets in and he feels judged constantly. “Every single day I wake up, I feel like I'm losing, and I don't know what I'm gonna do next,” he said. “I don't know what to do with my life.”
All quarter we have studied “Redemption in Romans”. We’ve learned again, or maybe for the first time, that all of us have sinned; that we are justified by faith alone; that we can have victory over sin; that there is true freedom in Christ; and that redemption is available to any and to all.
We’ve read some beautiful, reassuring texts such as Romans 3:23, 24 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….”
Now, at the end of the quarter and at the end of the book of Romans, Paul is asking us to extend to others the same grace we have been given. To not judge, as Randolph Forde feels he's been judged. In fact, this week’s memory verse asks the question, “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat” (Romans 14:10).
It’s a good question to ask ourselves. Why are we so quick to judge? Why do we look down on those who sin as if we ourselves were perfect? The truth of the text remains: we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Fortunately for us, we can breathe a sigh of relief because the Judge is also our Savior. And since we have received a redemption that we certainly don’t deserve, how can we deny it to others?