By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true.”— Matthew 5:17
We are all gathered here today for this initial consultation to look into the mission and ministry of lawyers in the church. Our gathering today is founded on a firm conviction that there must a big difference between Christian lawyers and lawyers in general. For Christian lawyers, law practice is not simply a profession, a means to earn a living. But rather it is a vocation, a calling from God.
Profession is very much different from vocation. What is important in a profession is the so-called professional fee we acquire, while in a vocation what is more important is the service we offer to people for God’s glory and honour. For Christian lawyers, their profession must be their vocation.
Jesus’ mission statement
For our reflections, I have come across the mission statement of Jesus Christ our Lord in the Gospel according to Matthew, which I find it quite relevant for our purpose. Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true” (Mt. 5: 17).
In another version, it says: “I have come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil the Law.” I think this should also be the mission statement of Christian lawyers: not to destroy the law, but to fulfil the law.
Spirit of the law
Now, how did Jesus Christ our Lord fulfil the law and make the teachings of the prophets come true?
First and foremost, Jesus Christ our Lord fulfilled the law and made the teachings of the prophets come true by looking into the real intention of the law, the purpose and spirit of the law, and not simply the letter of the law.
For instance, let’s take the law of the Sabbath. The Scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus Christ our Lord for healing a sick person on a Sabbath Day. For the Scribes and Pharisees, what Jesus did was literally a violation of the Sabbath Law. But for Jesus Christ our Lord, what he did was not a violation, but rather a fulfilment of the spirit and intention of the Sabbath Law (cf. Mt. 12:1-14).
Now, going back to history, the Sabbath Law was given to the Israelites after they were set free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Being slaves in Egypt, the Israelites were not allowed to rest. Hence, they would easily got sick and die. That’s why Jesus Christ our Lord said to the Scribes and Pharisees that the “the Sabbath was made for the good of man, and not man for the Sabbath” (cf. Mk. 2:27). The spirit of the Sabbath Law is justice – it is meant for the good of the human being.
Now, there are lawyers today who are like the Scribes and Pharisees during Jesus’ time. They are after the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law. They are expert in technicalities and make use of it in order to win a case even at the expense of justice and the common good. Christian lawyers must follow the way of the Christ.
Weightier aspects of the law
Moreover, Jesus Christ our Lord fulfilled the law and made the teachings of the prophets come true by looking into the weightier aspects of the law, such as justice, mercy and honesty.
Jesus Christ our Lord also criticized the Scribes and Pharisees and called them hypocrites for strictly observing the law of tithes and offerings, yet they neglect the weightier aspects of the law such as justice, mercy, and honesty (cf. Mt. 23:23).
The poor during Jesus’ time were condemned to sin and hopelessness, simply because they could not fulfil the law of tithes and offerings, while the Scribes and Pharisees bragged themselves to be righteous before God for being able to observe the law of tithes and offerings religiously. But Jesus did not regard the law of tithes and offerings as the weightier aspect of the law. Rather, it is justice, mercy, and honesty.
There is a saying among lawyers today that says, “The law may be harsh, but it is the law.” But for the Lord Jesus Christ, the law must not be harsh. When asked about the highest aspect of the law, he said that it is no other than the law of love. The law must be loving and just; for the love of God is just, and the justice of God is loving.
The call of the hour is for us to consider as our own the mission statement of Jesus Christ our Lord, and fulfil the law by looking into its spirit and its weightier aspects, such as justice, mercy, and honesty. And may God bless us all. Amen. # nordis.net
(Excerpts from a message delivered at the Lawyers’ Consultation, March 3, 2018, UCC, San Fernando City)