Please Read This Before You Read Guilty in the Courts

by Tad Lindley

For many years this was always the second page in the Delta Discovery that I turned to. What do you think the first page was? My friend, Raymond, and I were talking about this a few days ago, and come to find out, that it was the same for him. He used to go to that other page first and then come on over here. What page was it? Chances are good you yourself turned there before you turned to the Lamp Unto My Feet page. Where did you go first?

The mystery page

I admit, that for years I would always check the page that is commonly known as Guilty in the Courts. I would tell myself, “Just checking to see which of my friends I need to pray for.” But if I am honest it was really about that insatiable desire that we have for bad news about people. It is akin to our thirst for gossip.

You go ahead and keep going there first…

You can go ahead and keep checking Guilty in the Courts as soon as you get the paper, and I will not think the less of you for it. In my case though, I began to feel convicted about it. I felt like the Lord might not approve of me doing that, and so I go to this page first, unless something else catches my attention on my way here.

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth

I Corinthians 13:6 tells us, that love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Iniquity means sin. Most of the laws of the State of Alaska are based on right and wrong, and if you are on the wrong side, in most cases it is the result of sin your life. You may be able to look at the court conviction records simply for the truth of the matter, but I was taking pleasure in someone else’s downfall more than I was just trying to find out the truth about who was driving drunk, who was remaining unlawfully in a dwelling, and who is a repeat concealer of merchandise.

Keeps no record of wrongs

The Bible also teaches us in the same chapter that love doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil (I Corinthians 13:5). That phrase from the King James Version, “thinketh no evil” is translated in modern English versions as, keeps no record of wrongs (NIV and others). I am glad that the State of Alaska keeps a record of wrongs, they are allowed to, but God calls on us not to keep a record of people’s personal and legal failures.

But it makes me feel better

Sometimes when we compare ourselves with other people, we have been more righteous than they have, and it can feel good to know that at least we never concealed merchandise (shoplifted), or we never failed to control our vehicle. But the Bible warns us about comparing ourselves to people: …when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12b NIV) I can always prop myself up by measuring myself against someone who is currently struggling more than me. That is what weak men do.

Can we instead see our broken brothers the way Jesus does?

If we want to serve God, then we are called to compare ourselves with the word of God. The Bible is our measuring stick. When we are spending a lot of time in the word and in the presence of God if we find out that someone has stumbled in sin, we do not feel a sense of perverse pleasure, but instead we feel the brokenness that God feels over sin, and we feel a burden to lift them up in prayer and to see the power of God move in their life.

When you do turn to Guilty in the Courts

When you turn to Guilty in the Courts, I want you to cross out the words, “Guilty in the Courts”, and write PRAYER NEEDS. Every name on that list represents a person loved by God who has failed in sin. Every line may represent a family that has lost their provider. There may be victims who have a lifetime of healing ahead of them.When you are done thanking Jesus that your name is not on that list, begin to call out those whose names are, and the victims of their crimes, and the families that are left to struggle while a provider is incarcerated. To do all of that is to read Guilty in the Courts the way the Lord wants us to.

Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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