The Sermon on the Lake

The Sermon on the Lake
Many years ago, when I was meeting in the law offices of Wade Smith talking about what to do with my case, I learned from both Wade and Rick Gammon, my other lawyer and friend, that the District Attorney did not want to give me any plea bargain agreement at all. I thought that was crazy and said I had never heard of any defendant in any criminal case pleading guilty to all the charges against him or her without some agreement of some kind on either the number of charges involved or what the sentence might be. I thought that was what lawyers did…to work that out.
                In addition, I remember telling Wade that a good friend of mine, a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, who was not working on my case, but who nevertheless knew a lot about it, was telling me how to go forward in a way that would make it easier for me. I was all for that.
                Wade slowly but deliberately got up from behind his desk, walked over to where I was sitting, and rather forcefully shoved me back into the chair. I looked back at him in bewilderment and asked, “Why did you do that”? “Jim”, he said, “the public will either nail you now or nail you later. If you ask for special treatment, I fear you will never get well. I don’t know what will become of you. But if you will take it, take everything that might be coming to you and not complain, then you will absolutely get your life back…Jim, I want you to go home and read The Sermon on the Mount”.
                It took me a few days but I read it and went back to see Wade. As we sat in his office, he pulled out a copy of the Bible in the book of Matthew and began to read in part the words, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles”.
                “Jim, what Rick and I want you to do is to not want or ever accept any plea bargain agreement of any kind. Just do it! Just take it! That is the way back for you…the only way!’
                And so I did, though I should add, somewhat reluctantly. I was a prosecutor and defense attorney for many years, and I participated in lots of discussions with people about legal strategy and sentencing options. These words, though, with Wade and Rick, are years later, the words I most remember. You might think that is because these words dealt with me, and perhaps you might be right. But another answer is that these words were and are for many of us the best advice out there when we are confronted with unpleasant truths about ourselves.
                So this Tuesday morning, I went to the men’s morning breakfast at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. They have a great breakfast every Tuesday, and it is only $4.00. During the second half of the hour, one of the ministers takes a few minutes to talk about the upcoming Sunday sermon, and the text on which he or she is going to be speaking. 
                Today, it was and is the Sixth Chapter of Luke, in a series of verses that Chris Edmonston, the senior pastor, introduced as “the Sermon on the Lake”. The words closely mirror in part the words in Matthew that I read when I was in a very unhappy state. But this is 2012, and the fall of 1993 is a long time ago. But not so long ago that my eyes today did not immediately go to the passage in Luke that reads “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.
                No one in the room but me knew the significance of those words to me, and the gratefulness that I still have for the wisdom and advice of my friends Wade and Rick when I needed it.

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