Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2012
The God of Grace and Judgement
Text: 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Genesis 3, 6; John 3:17-21; Revelation 14:6, 7.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman had become discouraged with his job. During his 28 years of service in the county’s criminal courts, he’d judged thousands of felons. But after they were incarcerated, then placed on probation, they reoffended.
“I've been in the system so long, I just got tired of writing all these people off,” he told the Oakland Tribune. “You realize that you have to do something to try to step it up.”1 He came to this realization back in the 1900s when working at a clearing house for felons facing sentencing for their crimes. As judge he would send them to prison, knowing full well that they would learn nothing from their time behind bars, and he’d be sentencing them again after they got out.
So he created the Crossroads Mentoring Program, which works at giving felons the incentive, support, and discipline they’d been lacking to change their lives. Partnering with retired public defender Scott Spear and Derrick Bedford, an ex-felon and one of the program's first graduates, Goodman has changed the course of dozens of lives that were destined for lifelong incarcerations.
Regina Ellis, a 24-year-old mother, was caught stealing $10,000 worth of gift cards from the store where she worked. Fortunately for her, Judge Goodman was her judge. After going through the Crossroads Mentoring Program, she said, “The program saved my life. Without the Crossroads program, I probably would not have my son or my husband. I’d probably be doing the same things, stealing from my workplace.”
Education, employment, parenting and community service, are the four principles that Crossroads is based on. There are some requirements for being accepted into the program: felons must choose to be a part, must be between the ages of 18 to 25, and must prove to the Judge that they really want to change. During their program, they’re required to earn a high school diploma, find a meaningful job, volunteer for community service, and prove that they know what it takes to responsibly raise a child. The program, which takes anywhere from 18 months to five years to complete, clears the criminals of their felony records and terminates their probation. They are given a second chance.
Our Judge has given us a second chance, too. Even though, much like these felons, we don’t deserve it. When you think about it, this week’s memory text can be quite intimidating: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ephesians 12:14). Think about it: every deed we have done; every thing we thought we had hidden. All will be brought to judgment when Jesus returns.
But praise God that judgment can include grace and redemption! For there is also this text in John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Our Judge has provided a way out. Our Judge has provided grace, through dying in our place.