As a Criminal Defence Barrister, I am often asked “How do you do your job as a Christian?” This question has always troubled me; do we stand in condemnation and judgement of another human being even before they have had the opportunity to confess or to be judged by their peers in a court of law after hearing the evidence?
My work is indeed challenging and even more so when defending the young, aged between 12-21 years old for various serious offences including Class A drugs and murder. In my experience, the reality of facing a criminal charge and all that flows from this is very rarely appreciated by a young person. One mistakenly gets the impression that they view it as yet another step into the world of false reality like a session on their favourite video game that can be placed on pause or even switched off. The ‘Russian roulette’ of the criminal justice system is very real indeed and only fully understood by a young person long after their appearance in court.
I was recently reminded by a young lady that I had mentored of my time as her Sunday school teacher many years ago in Croydon Community Church. I saw my role not only to explore Biblical scripture with the young people and teach about Christian principles, but also about the application of the scripture to their lives as they found their places in society. With all the challenges of being a teenager in an ever changing world, the competition between discovering their true identity and purpose, and the influence of social media, self-awareness, false reality and celebrity obsession, it is often a difficult path to negotiate (Matthew 7:13-14). I guess my own obsession with God’s purpose for my life was a driving force in my passion for mentoring and inspiring the next generation. “Be all that you can and have been called to be” was a phrase repeated over and over to the young people in my Sunday school class and throughout my years as a mentor thereafter.
"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
In my professional work, I am saddened to see many of the youth harbour anger, hatred and a lack of aspiration and self-belief as their dominant emotions. My duty to represent their interest in the courtroom is always underpinned by my faith and the belief that they are made in God’s image with a purpose and destiny. In a recent murder trial where my 19-year-old client was acquitted, I told him that “It’s not too late to go and be the person you were supposed to be.”
As a Christian, my work as an advocate for and mentor to the youth is significant from a faith perspective for two important reasons.
Firstly, God’s grace in my life has allowed me to approach my work with a sense of humility, compassion, and yearning for His hand to be constantly on my purpose and destiny, it’s something I wish for every young person.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I consider my work at times to be a form of youth ministry, so what is its goal and purpose? I guess it should resemble or even mirror the goal of the entire church.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Often referred to as the great commission or Jesus’s great commandment, we are called to love God and to love people.
Secondly, for many of us, this is still a great challenge in times of hardship, and uncertainty and we are very much works in progress but as Christians, providing teaching and mentorship to our young people gives them the platform and example to fulfil the word of God and His promise over their lives.
Our youth deserve our encouragement, love, fellowship and wisdom in order that their knowledge of the truth will truly set them free (John 8:32 KJV).
In a world where our youth have seen death, fear, disease, famine, war, poor leadership, broken politics, poverty, and oppression on an unimaginable scale, we must stand firm in our hope and hold on to our faith as an example to them.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
My faith, mentorship, work and calling continues!