This week I received a get-of-jail card from my auto club to use anytime I get in trouble. It’s a $5000 bond guarantee. Unfortunately the card doesn’t cover the good stuff in the police blotter. It’s not good for DUI or eluding police – useless failure to present proof of insurance.
What am I gonna do the next time I’m arrested for driving my cousin’s tow truck without a commercial license? The disclaimer says it won’t cover that – useless! I’m not making this up.
You are probably wondering why a minister should need such a card. I’m a pretty law-abiding guy. People know that. I even highlighted that on my recent resume –right at the top – “never actually indited.” The job offers multiply daily.
Still, if you think it’s odd for a minister to get the card, what about folks like Jeb Bush? Did he get one? Does the Chief of Homeland Security get one? Would a bail bondsman get one? Or is free bail kind of a job perk? And how about a judge?
A judge carrying a get-out-of-jail card would be almost as unique as was the judge I encountered issuing his own brand of get-out-of-jail cards. I was walking to the cafeteria with the nurse manager of the Critical Care Unit. We were 15 steps from the hospital driveway when a code blue call was announced – a common hospital announcement calling for all available medical personnel.
However, this code blue was being called for the hospital driveway. Grabbing a nearby “crash cart” and began pushing it toward the driveway while mouthing our disbelief – “code blue in the driveway?”
We weren’t the first ones to the scene, but I wished we had been. Stooped over a man bleeding from nearly every orifice, was the nurse manager from in-vitro fertilization giving mouth-to-mouth. She was a newlywed with an umbilical link to a life inside her as she began to establish a mouth-to-mouth link with a stranger outside of her.
Although the judge was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the nurse was making a midnight appeal to arbitrate life and defy his final court order. Blood was everywhere and whatever was in the blood now entangled the nurse.
The judge was taken to the ER where heroic measures were given one more prayer before he was pronounced dead. Documents discovered on his body revealed that he was an immigration judge and our lab had just given him a positive result for HIV.
In the next few hours his family was notified. As the details surrounding the suicide began to surface, grief amongst the family members was a scarce commodity. Apparently the judge had been granting favorable immigration judgements to plaintiffs in exchange for more intimate favors. For soliciting bribes from the desperate, our lab had just handed the judge their unanimous verdict and justice became self-imposed.
Attention quickly turned to our heroic nurse. In-vitro nurses are not especially trained in emergency medicine and his blood had blown through her airway. It would take a miracle to stay the infection.
But every once in a while, heroes get their miracles. She got her miracle in the form of a disease-free beautiful, healthy daughter. She too continued to test negative.
I didn’t know the judge and would therefore not pass judgment on his life. He left this world for an appearance before a much more superior judge. But I am aware of how there are ways in which we repeat the mistakes of the judge.
There are powers we all hold over people. Maybe they are powers of employment, housing, parenting, or education, but they are always powers of influence. It is how we exchange that influence that makes the difference as to how we help or hurt the people we encounter.
There are ways in which we become users of people when we focus only on the use we have for them and the use becomes more important than redeeming the person. When did people become objects to this judge and cease being people?
When does it happen to us? Was it while we were out driving our 4wd SUV’s with our reflective windows shaking a finger at anyone who got in our way? Do we stop seeing them as people and see them as objects that impair us from getting what we need?
How can we open our eyes and see people as God sees them? Perhaps that is only possible when we are willing to sacrifice what God sacrificed. It seems to me that he sacrificed his willingness to be above us when he decided to become one of us. The scripture tells us that he emptied who he was and came to live among us – to become tempted in all the ways in which we are tempted.
The nurse didn’t see herself as above this judge. No one would have blamed her if she had asked for a doctor to pronounce him DOA, but she saw the tragedy in his life. She could have judged him as worthless as he had judged himself, but she didn’t. She saw him just as God sees us – a human being worth every bit as much as the sacrifice made to redeem us.
It seems to me that the holiday we celebrate this weekend was about a man who lived and died for such principles. Happy Birthday, Martin.