2017-05-23 - Our Own Gratitude Factors
For a decade-and-a-half, I worked in a large metro DA office, as a Crime Victim Advocate. I absolutely loved my work. I was able to serve an under-served population, both in the area of demographics - both victims and perpetrators were mostly minorities (70%-80%) - as well as attention from the media and public opinion, most of which seems concerned about the rights of those who commit the crimes, rather than the innocent victims of the violence. It is a good feeling to work with the victims and witnesses, knowing I am doing my little part to help bring true justice. I was able to daily live out one of my favorite verses:
Isaiah 1:17 (MSG) Say no to wrong.
But I also was around something that I did not love, the attitudes of people who were given breaks but didn't take advantage of them, to better their lives and society. Part of my job was done in courtrooms and part in the office. Sometimes when I was back in the office, entering victim contact info in the computer, or talking on the phone with victims, I would also overhear the calls of some people who were working for the deferred prosecution program. Our office only did felonies, so all the crimes were serious and many were extremely violent - shootings, cuttings and the like. Yet our DA and state are generous with the first offender defendants, giving them another chance and a clean record, if they will simply follow through for one year, do several things they promise to do, and they are not stringent demands at all.
Now keep in mind, these people have been convicted of felonies, and contrary to what is heard on too many television show, there are many steps to that. People aren't just railroaded and ushered into a trial with no evidence. In fact, at every step, the case has to pass an evidence "test" before they even get to a trial. They aren't even pulled over without probable cause, much less cited or arrested. Steps such as enough evidence for probable cause for the arrest warrant to be granted by the judge in the first place, enough evidence to show probable cause they did it - enough to go on to the Grand Jury of their peers, enough evidence to convince two dozen of their peers etc. Some examples of the requirements they fail to complete, are attending an orientation class about the program for several days, doing community service such as gathering food for a food bank, not doing drugs, not handling a firearm, not hanging out with felons etc. No highway work or anything strenuous. Very reasonable demands that most of us fulfill anyway. And yet these workers have to make call after call, reminding the defendants that they didn't do what they promised, and some even ask "can my lawyer do it for me?" Well that kind-of defeats the purpose, right?
So instead of being thankful for the breaks, and using them to turn around, they just ungratefully ignored the simple requests of them, and sometimes went right on to commit more crimes, right away before even completing thief first year. They have a low gratitude factor. Also by the way, contrary to popular myth, they aren't all "committing crimes because they don't have a job." In fact, I have sat through many bond hearings and in my experience, most of the defendants have had jobs; in fact, they used those jobs as excuses for bond. "Your honor, you want my client to be a productive member of society and earn money, right?" They seemed to overlook the fact that committing serious violence against innocent victims is not productive.
This has always given me "righteous anger," because it is unjust and also a slap in the face to the victims, that the perpetrators won't even do their small part. I'm thankful for the strong driving passion that God has given me for true justice. It has been a driving force for me, as long as I can remember and encompasses all of life. But I was recently speaking about this work situation with a friend, and it made me think of our own attitudes toward God's breaks for us. Sometimes we commit a sin, then we confess and as God's word says, all we have to do is admit our sins to God, and He will forgive us:
1 John 1:9-10 The Message (MSG)
Yet too often, after we ourselves are forgiven of a sin - then like ingrates, we go right back to it the next day. It is true, not only of criminals or alcoholics, but probably every single one of us. Whether we have committed a sin of commission such as cutting someone off in traffic (no, I promise I don't do that!), lashing out at someone in hurt/anger, thinking about something other than the sermon during the pastor's message, over-spending etc. - or a sin of omission - not calling 911 for help when we see someone stranded along the way ("Someone else will call."), not giving as much as we can from our own salary, to help those in need in Haiti or wherever, not offering to help in an area in which we know we are gifted and there is a need - only to name a few.
I encourage all of us, including myself, to live out our thankfulness for God's grace, by truly turning from our sins. Let's raise our gratitude factors.