I am a Lawyer because I am sin-rounded

John Hyde

John Hyde

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I sometimes think that the practice of law is all the proof that will ever be needed for the existence of sin.  If someone feels that “sin” is an outmoded concept, or one that no longer applies, perhaps they could spend a day or two with a lawyer listening to the cases unfolding in courts up and down the country, whether criminal, civil or family.

I’ve heard law described as trading in human misery, and there is no doubt that lawyers often get to see the worst and most broken sides of human nature.  Perhaps most obviously in criminal or family cases, where the conduct of the parties can be clearer to see.  But also in the civil and commercial spheres, whether in cases of misrepresentation (lying in one form or another), breach of contract (broken promises whether justified or not), negligence (accidental or deliberate failings to deal properly with other people and their affairs), or a whole host of other cases.  And then there is the conduct of parties and their lawyers when conducting their cases, in all spheres of law, which causes legal ethicists, judges and regulators concern.

In this way, I think that lawyers are sin-rounded – that is, surrounded by sin.  The Bible tells us that sin is in each of our hearts, and lawyers are no different, but it’s also worth acknowledging the extent to which being lawyer can feel like the effects of sin are everywhere you look.

To some extent, the lawyer’s lot is no different from others’.  Lawyers experience the same challenges of working with broken human beings in offices, Chambers or court, and of the systemic issues within their workplaces that can foster injustice and cause injury.  Lawyers also wrestle with the challenges of work in this fallen world, with its inherent and unavoidable burdens and frustrations.

But, as we noted above, the day-to-day practice of law can feel like a further weight of brokenness, selfishness, disingenuousness and compromise.  Cases revolving around people’s abject failure to love each other even vaguely like Jesus commanded.  Injustices perpetrated without shame or apology.  Relationships fractured or broken.  The pain, stress, worry and distress of those stuck in the middle of our cases.  It can feel a heavy burden for a lawyer to bear, and a discouraging one too.

Yet, in a sense even our discouragement can be an encouragement to us.  Our very experience of the brokenness, of the sin, around us vindicates the Bible’s relentlessly clear teaching on the subject.  It gives us practical experience of the problems with this world that Scripture does not shy away from.  Hopefully, this can encourage our faith that what we read in the Bible is true – and not just about sin, but about the hope, life and salvation that God freely offers us too.

And it shows us that we are, in a very real sense, sharing in God’s work in His world.  Scripture makes no bones about the prevalence and effect of sin on the world, but it is equally insistent that God has not abandoned His world as a result.  Instead, God remains at work – patiently, but implacably – to undo the ravages of sin and restore His creation.  Most clearly, perhaps, this is evidenced in the Incarnation. In Christ, God Himself entered our world in all of its sin and brokenness to tell us that we are not alone, nor forgotten, and that His work has overcome sin in all its forms.

It is perhaps a rare privilege, then, for the Christian lawyer to follow so closely in Christ’s footsteps as we engage deeply with the sin that continues to affect His world until He comes again.  It is equally perhaps no surprise that we cannot do this work in our own strength, or that we can find it overwhelming.  May even that drive us back to the cross, to receive all we need for the work God has given us to do.

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