Earlier this month a Fayetteville, North Carolina judge spent a night in jail. Judge Lou Olivera was there with a retired Special Forces sergeant he had just sent to jail for violating probation.
Weeks before 41-year old Joe Serna had been arrested for driving under the influence and other traffic violations. The court put him on probation with the instruction to stay sober and to return to court every two weeks. Serna’s situation was complicated by post-traumatic stress disorder caused by three tours in Afghanistan.
A night in jail
On April 12 Serna admitted his last urinalysis had been positive. The Judge Olivera sentenced him to a night in jail. But then the judge accompanied him to the jail and spent the night in the cell with Serna.
The two spent most of the time talking about their military experiences. Olivera is a Gulf War veteran. “It was more of a father-son conversation as opposed to a judge talking to someone and sentencing them,” the judge said. “It was personal.”
God's love is personal
It was personal when God the Father sent his Son to be our Savior. It was personal when Jesus didn’t just accompany us to hell’s prison but went to hell in our place. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13), Jesus assured his followers on Maundy Thursday. The Apostle John adds, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Our personal God loves each of us personally, is personally committed to each of us, is personally waiting to welcome us home to his heaven. No matter what we are guilty of. No matter the mess we have made of life. His commitment to us will never change or weaken. It’s personal.