Everywhere we look today, people are complaining about “justice”:
Prisons are overflowing, more are being built, and still the cry is: “lock them away; protect me; we need justice!”
The court system is so overloaded and bankrupt that people feel deprived of justice by the lack of progress in their case.
Lawyers are compared to sharks, rats, creators of chaos, and given the indication that they will not enter heaven. (If you have not heard any of these jokes, write me and I’ll share them with you!)
Maybe it is because we have become technicians of the law — “practicing law” — instead of “doing justice” within the Biblical sense of “justice.”
I commit this book to 3 propositions:
(1) This may be the time in all of history for the Christian lawyer to return to his true calling — ministry.
(2) That as the lawyer ministers, he can offer more healing to his clients than can a physician to his patients.
(3) That the lawyer, functioning as a minister, involves far more than praying with the client, or praying for a judge or an adversary.
I choose the calling of minister for the lawyer because that is the calling Paul — another lawyer; “pharisee above all pharisees; as to the law, blameless” — saw for himself once he knew that, because of Jesus Christ, he was a new creature:
“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. Now, all these new things are from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, namely to proclaim that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us, and He has committed to us this ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us.”
II Cor. 5:17-20
The issues for lawyers should therefore be:
(1) What does the ministry of reconciliation look like from a desk in our law office?
(2) How do we function as ambassadors?
I want to look at those questions from the vantage point of various areas of the law practice, giving examples in the process.
And I challenge you to read slowly, meditating upon the thoughts presented. Look up the Scripture references. Allow the Lord to speak His truth to you concerning these words.
But, first, a brief resume.
I was raised in Elkhart, Indiana, in the home of an attorney/politician, graduated from Indiana University Law School in 1966, entered the firm of my father, and worked primarily in Tort litigation, small corporation formation, Wills, and Estate Planning.
It was my “theology” that God created us, and placed us on earth, for the purpose of establishing justice. We were to do this through governmental systems and law.
But, the more I became involved in the system, the less justice I seemed to find.
I entered politics, helping others get elected, and, in 1973, was appointed to the Indiana Board of Correction. After looking at prisons, I turned to look at matters in the mental health, juvenile justice, and special educational systems — and found what I believed was a lack of justice; i.e., we the people seemed not to be doing a very good job of meeting the needs of the less fortunate among us.
I ran for the state legislature, thinking to change laws and improve the delivery of justice, but lost, discovering that people seemed more interested in chuck-holes and bridges than matters of justice.
On Jan. 1, 1977, I became the Judge of Elkhart Superior Court II. Life became felonies on Monday morning, domestics Monday afternoons, juveniles on Tuesday, civil or criminal trials from Wednesday through Friday noon, and civil mental health matters Friday afternoon. Probate, reciprocal non-support, paternity actions, etc., were worked in as needed. Weekends were reserved for crying in frustration.
I still felt justice eluding me, and I felt prevented by the law, particularly in the criminal, juvenile, and mental health areas, from even being able to do justice. Something was missing from the system.
Today, I know what was missing — the inability of the system to do anything about (1) relationships of people to God, or (2) relationship to one another.
The law and legal system are decision makers for conflicts — better in style than anarchy or the ancient method of trial by combat. But it generally serves only to divide relationships.
During my time as Judge, God convicted me of the fact that I was a sinner, in need of a Savior — of reconciliation to Him — and that Jesus Christ was that Salvation.
Then, through a series of events, I came to understand that Christ had to be Lord — boss, king, ruler, etc. — over all my life. (If you want more of that story, you may read about it in chapter 16 of Loving God by Charles Colson.)
Those events, and the Lord, led me to leave the bench in February, 1982. For another 18 months, I practiced law. As I did so, I found myself doing more ministry to my clients’ spiritual and emotional needs than lawyering to their legal needs.
In August, 1983, I left the practice of law, moved to Minneapolis, and became Executive Director of the Christian Conciliation Service of Minnesota — a conflict resource ministry. Most of my time was spent teaching conflict resolution according to Biblical principles, and working with individuals who were in conflict. I learned that God’s principles would apply in any type of case, for any people willing to practice the principles.
In January, 1988, I left that ministry to spend full-time speaking, teaching, and serving as a technical resource to Christians and ministries in their conflicts. On several occasions, we went and lived in churches in internal conflict. Again we found the principles applicable to corporate conflicts. We also went to prisons on behalf of Prison Fellowship, taking the word of reconciliation to those behind bars.
In 1994, through the International Institute for Christian Studies, I went to Moscow for 8 months, teaching law at two Russian universities. I taught a massive overview of American law and legal system, with a Biblical comparison called Restorative Justice. I repeated that in Belarus in March, 1995, and will be back in Belarus for the Fall of 1995 and Spring of 1996.
With that background, let’s look at some common features of our clients and ourselves, features we need to understand regardless of our field of law.
COMMON FACTORS OF LAWYERS AND CLIENTS
One of the first questions we must consider is whether the nature of our client — Christian or not — makes any substantial difference in our approach to the client. To answer that question, we need to consider certain truths about the human being.
(1) We are all “made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26). Within our clients is a kernel which was made to behave as God desires. That kernel can be spoken to — and if we do not do so, we do not honor God in our practice. We must study, meditate, and pray for wisdom about the Image of God.
(2) We all have “knowledge of God” — Rom. 1:18-19. Our words and actions should reinforce the knowledge our clients have of God, and not deny this knowledge by doing for them, or suggesting that they do, things against the will of God.
(3) God does not desire that any person be lost to the kingdom or to abundant life — Matt. 18:12-14. If we never offer the truth of God to our clients, we may deny them these opportunities.
(4) Our clients are probably in conflict when we meet them — conflict with self, with God, with others — and in need of reconciliation. We may be in similar conflicts! We need to know the dynamics of conflict and God’s way for dealing with conflict, and we need to teach these things to our clients.
These four things apply to all of our clients, Christian or not.
Then there are factors which apply only to our Christian clients, so we may need to determine if our client proclaims Christ as Savior.
(5) The Holy Spirit within them can be grieved by wrong actions, inactions, attitudes, etc. — Eph. 4:30-31 — and our counsel, our actions, inactions, and attitudes, could be the cause of that grief.
(6) Our client is a new creature; a minister of reconciliation; an ambassador for Christ; and should act as such towards all those whom they meet — which includes their adversary in any conflict.
(7) Our client is a dead person, raised to new life in Christ, seated in Christ at the right hand of God the Father — Eph. 2:1-9. If we know where we sit, even though we exist here, then no one can hurt us. Hurt is an emotion we do not have to appropriate. “They” may take all we have, throw us in prison, even kill us — but “they” can’t hurt us.
(8) Our client has works created by God to be done — Eph. 2:10. I thought my works were as Judge and lawyer. Now I don’t try to figure out what His works are, for I know that when He wants me there, He will place me there.
(9) Our client is called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness by obedience, concentrating on dealing with what today holds, trusting tomorrow to Him — Matt. 6:25-34.
(10) Our client should not cause others to stumble as they seek after Christ and His ways — Matt. 18:1-11.
(11) Our client needs to understand, and learn to practice, confession and forgiveness — the two keys to reconciliation and resolution of conflict.
Now, let us look at the matter of conflict in general, for much of our work as lawyers will focus on conflicts.
CONFLICT IN GENERAL
In any conflict, reconciliation is (and should always be considered) a potential. Reconciliation may be needed at any of three levels:
(1) Reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ — salvation;
(2) Re-reconciliation with God having strayed from the sheep-fold; and/or
(3) Reconciliation between individuals.
As a “minister of reconciliation”, we need to understand the dynamics of conflict, man’s ways for dealing with conflict (and the results thereof), and God’s way for dealing with conflict (and the hope therein).
We act as a minister of reconciliation by teaching our clients the things of God, and by then helping them put the principles into practice in a conflict setting which they present to us.
Conflict, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad — it is neutral, natural, and necessary.
It is natural because we are sinners, in relationship with other sinners — be it social, personal, business, etc. Conflicts are the results of our sin nature — selfishness and rebellion — rubbing against one another as we interact.
Thus, as in all areas of life, the Christian is to bring conflict under the Lordship of Christ.
If we deal with conflict according to the ways of man, we may suffer spiritual and emotional defeat — I Cor. 6:7-8; Eph. 4:30-31. We may cause harm to the other persons in the conflict — I Cor. 6:7-8; Gal. 5:15. And, if our adversary is a Christian, we may damage our witness to the unbelieving world — Jn. 17:19-21.
If we deal with conflict according to the ways of the Lord, we have the opportunity to appropriate His peace, and God will be glorified — Rom. 8:28.
And, conflict is necessary, as it is through conflict that we have the opportunity to grow in our understanding of, and reliance upon, God.
Conflict may be called God’s character training school!
Let’s look further at man’s ways and God’s Way.
MAN’S WAYS WITH CONFLICT
Man’s ways for dealing with conflict include:
(1) Seeking to win for self. Relationship does not matter.
Litigation is often a classic seeking of self — nothing less than “my way” (victory) would be “justice.”
God could have had victory. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God could have killed them, won, and started over.
(2) Running away in avoidance.
Divorce is a classic example. Instead of seeing Christ’s power to heal and restore, we deny His power and run away.
God could have run away. He could have gone to Mars and begun a new garden. Of course, Adam and Eve (and us) would still be hiding in the Garden, naked and without hope.
(3) Give in, ignore, pretend it doesn’t exist.
The alcoholic community calls it “enabling”.
God could have ignored, but Adam and Eve, and we, would still be in the bushes, doomed.
(4) Negotiate and compromise.
Nothing is per se wrong with this, but if done outside the Biblical process, it is still avoidance. If done by lawyers, rather than parties facing each other, it avoids.
Can you picture God negotiating the value of the fruit? God did not negotiate or compromise with man — but He did die for man.
(5) We can forgive — which we must (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Lk. 17:3-4).
But, trying to forgive without understanding what forgiveness is will also become avoidance.
God forgives, without avoidance, as we shall see.
GOD’S WAY FOR CONFLICT
What is God’s way for dealing with conflict?
Let’s look into the Garden of Eden.
God set His heart upon love and forgiveness rather than victory — to reconciliation and not restitution or revenge — before He came to the Garden.
God chose to confront — He came to the Garden. He Who was right came to us who were wrong. He who was powerful came to us who were without power. He with position, name, and prestige, gave it up for we who were naked.
Throughout the Bible, God confronts man — by flood, law, captivity, judges, prophets, and through the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Today, He would confront the world by the obedient actions of His people when in conflict — and that includes the actions of His lawyers who assist the people!
Having confronted, God extended forgiveness. When God forgives, He promises not to mention the matter again, not to tell others about it, not to allow thoughts of it to return and infect His mind. And, most importantly, He still offers relationship to us, knowing that we will sin (reject Him) in the future.
In short, He chooses, from His side, to live at peace with us — Rom. 12:18.
There are some truths about forgiveness which we need to know and teach our clients.
First, nobody can forgive another, in a Godly fashion, unless they have first received forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ. Until then we do not know what forgiveness is. If our client is unable to forgive, we might ask them to share a testimony.
Second, the degree to which we are able to forgive, at any given moment, reflects the degree to which we feel forgiven at that moment.
Third, the degree to which we feel forgiven reflects the degree to which we have confessed our own sins (particularly sins related to the conflict of the moment!).
Fourth, the degree to which we will confess our sin is related to our recognition of the horror which sin is to God. So long as we think sin equals mistake, rather than intentional, volitional denial of God, we will not be “doers of the word” (see Jas. 1:22-24).
The wonderful thing about forgiving the other person (which is also true of confessing our sins to those whom we harm) is that it breaks the cycle of conflict.
When wronged, we tend to get bitter, which turns to hostility, which becomes hatred. From there, it is but a slip of the tongue to violence — verbal or physical. Once we openly express that hatred, the other person feels justified in making a savage response. Then we feel justified in taking revenge, then they can retaliate, and the war is on!
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many be defiled.” (Heb. 12:15)
People who do not forgive soon become angry at God, loose respect for authority, develop emotional or physical problems, start acting irresponsibly, and spend a lot of time screaming for “justice.”
But, forgiving the other breaks the cycle and opens the door for reconciliation, forgetting, and healing.
And, at least by your doing what God commands — forgiving — you get peace with self, peace with God, and the potential for peace with the other person, while God gets the glory!
We need to help clients see their actions and inactions relative to the conflict which contributed to their being where they now are, and then lead them to confession and forgiveness.
Then, God helped meet the needs of Adam and Eve — Gen. 3:21.
They were naked, so God sat down on a rock and called to Him another of His creation — probably a blameless sheep. He killed the innocent one and from its skin made clothes for Adam and Eve.
God did it before Adam and Eve confessed or repented, and He did it, through Christ Jesus, before you, I, or any one of our clients confessed or repented.
We need to suggest to our clients that they learn to see the needs of the other person — even the one who wrongs them — and consider meeting those needs, sacrificially if need be.
So, we have seen God’s Way for dealing with conflict — and we, and our clients, are made in His image. We may deny it all we want, and suffer the pain and anguish that results from separation from God. But the fact is that we are made to, when in conflict, sacrifice all, even life itself, and seek to bear the burdens of the one who wrongs us.
Now, let’s look at some specific instructions from God about how to, and not to, deal with conflict.
THE TROUBLE WITH LAWSUITS
“Does any one of you, when he has a case, against another, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the Saints? Or do you not know that the Saints shall judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so that there is not among you one wise man able to decide between the brethren? But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers. Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren.” I Cor. 6:1-8
We lawyers write documents of thousands of words, and we call them “Briefs.” Here is a lawyer being truly brief! Let’s look at what the Lord is trying to teach us through the lawyer, Paul, for it is imperative that we know what God desires of us.
(1) “Does any one of you” — All Christians are included. No Christian may say they are unique and able to avoid this Word.
(2) “When he has a case” — All conflicts are included. No Christian may say that their case is unique, and avoid this Word.
(3) “Against a neighbor” — Regardless of who (individual or organization), or what (Christian or not), the other is. The Greek word, heteros, means “the other person involved.” Since we are called to be light and salt, to go therefore, to love neighbor as self, and to be ministers of reconciliation, this use of heteros is very appropriate.
(4) “Dare you go to law before unrighteous” — man’s laws and systems have always been, will always be, and must be, “unrighteous”: “You may seek the favor of the ruler (judge, jury, politician), but justice (righteousness) for man comes only from the Lord.” (Pro. 29:26) Our legal system is merely a “system” for dealing with conflict. We must have a “system” or face anarchy. But, “justice” will never be a by-product of a “system”.
God, on the other hand, gave us a “method.” Because it is His, and a “method,” “justice” will result within (not to) the individual who chooses to appropriate all that God offers. If a person places his trust in the people who assist in God’s method, “justice” may still elude him. Our trust must only be “in Him Who judges righteously” — I Pet. 2:23 — but we honor God by choosing to follow His “method.”
Finding justice within is really quite simple. For offenders, it comes through confessing to God, and to those whom we have harmed, the wrongs done, without any expectation of gain as a result of the confession.
For victims, justice is found by confronting the offender (if possible) and then releasing the matter through forgiveness, also without expectation of gain.
For people who find themselves drawn into the conflicts of others, justice comes by acknowledging that we were not called to choose a side but to present God’s side. We then confess where we fell short, and withdraw, releasing the outcome of the conflict to God.
And, for people given a role in the conflict of others (like us lawyers), justice is discovered by teaching offenders to confess, victims to forgive, and side-choosers to back-off.
(5) “And not before the saints” — Saints are any person in whom Christ Jesus lives. God has given us gifts (Rom. 12:4-8; I Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:11-16), placed us in the Body exactly where He wants us (I Cor. 12:18), so that we may serve one another (I Pet. 4:10) and “bear the burdens of one another and fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
Then verses 2-4 of I Cor. 6 show the power, authority, and role of the Body of Christ relative to the conflicts of the members.
Let’s stop and summarize to this point.
When we find ourselves in a conflict, we have two routes we may start upon — go to the law or go to the church. We ought to be wise and recognize that we may have logs in our eyes, ears, hearts and minds — after all, our hearts are deceptively wicked.
Therefore, we come first to the Saints for guidance and counsel on our actions, inactions, attitudes, etc. Since most Christian do not know this, they come first to the lawyer. Thus, the Christian lawyer must know these things, teach them to his clients, and help draw the Body of Christ in to help the one who is in need.
The Saints help us determine if our ways have been (or will be) pleasing to the Lord so that our enemies may live at peace with us (Pro. 16:7). They help guide us on practicing the “methods” of the Lord — Matt. 5:22-26 and Matt. 18:12-35.
In the Saints, we can find a multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14), who can pray and anoint us with the Word of the Lord (Jas. 5:14) to judge our past actions and to govern our future actions. Our tendency is to phone 4 people individually with our story, hoping one will say it is all right to do what we have already decided we want to do!
And it is for the Saints to bear burdens which those who are in conflict may have as a result of Godly behavior while in conflict (Gal. 6:2).
Lawyers, as ministers of reconciliation, must first be, and function as, Saints, rather than lawyers.
(6) To this point, Paul has not said we may or may not file lawsuits, that we may or may not defend if sued. He only tells us what to do first.
But, starting with verse 5, a different matter exists. From verses 5-8, the situation presented in that of Christian v Christian — adelphos, “brothers of the same womb.”
Nevertheless, the above issue of “justice,” and the issue of “defeat” which follows, still apply to all clients, without regard to what they or their adversary are or are not.
Verse 5 simply says that if two Christians have a conflict capable of financial resolution, and they have attempted Matt. 18:15-16, then, when they come to the Church (Matt. 18:17), the church is to find wise people to tell them what to do (sounds like a binding arbitration, doesn’t it?).
(7) “It is a defeat for you” — The defeat may be the grieving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-31); being consumed as you bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:15); or time in a prison of despair and disillusionment (Matt. 5:25-26). We may also defeat our “witness” to the world, if our adversary is a fellow believer, by not actively seeking to be “one” with them — Jn. 17:21.
(8) “Why not rather be wronged, defrauded” — If such a defeat is going result, would it not be better to suffer the wrong and stay free of the negative effects of the conflict, free to be used by the Lord, rather than closed to being used by Him because of our focus on self-interest?
If our actions turned another away from God, would it not have been better to be defrauded? Remember what the Lord said about stumbling blocks and millstones — Matt. 18:1-11? We lawyers can be stumbling blocks for our clients!
(9) “On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren” — When you sue another, or defend in a wrong manner, you may cause them to be defeated, wronged or defrauded. Would it not be better to suffer wrong?
Paul does not say you can or cannot sue or defend. We live under grace, not under law. But he warns, and offers an alternative — submit your case and behavior to the church for counsel first.
Lawyers need to become adjunct ministers in the churches, and so assist the Body of Christ in its healing ministry of reconciliation of man to God, and man to man!
(10) A final word, and this on the matter of defending when sued. When we consider the potential for “defeat,” we need to ask the question to the Saints: “Should I suffer the wrong, not defend?” If we do defend, remember “your ‘yes’ shall be your ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ your ‘no,’ and anything beyond that is evil” (Matt. 5:37). “Give an account in gentleness and reverence” (I Pet. 3:15).
Do not, in defending, seek to maim, cripple, or devour the other, or uncover the sin of the other; and do not show disrespect for the law, lawgiver, or those in authority — Rom. 13:1-7. And do not expect from the law and system what it cannot give — justice.
So, before we sue, or defend, what should we do?
DEALING RIGHTLY WITH CONFLICT
WHEN SOMEONE THINKS YOU DID THEM WRONG
(Matt. 5:23-26 — You May Get Sued)
WHEN YOU THINK SOMEONE DID YOU WRONG
(Matt. 18:15-17 — You Want To Sue)
In each instance, before giving us instruction, Christ reminds us of what we are: people worthy of burning in Hell for calling another a “fool” (Matt. 5:22); sheep who choose to go astray, for whom God left Heaven, came to earth, and died (Matt. 18:12- 14); forgiven more than we can ever repay, and more than any person can ever owe us (Matt. 18:21-35); sinners saved by grace who are to love and forgive others because He first loved us.
As lawyers, we must listen carefully to our clients describe their case. While they talk, we listen to hear violations of the laws and methods of God so that we may admonish them and give correction.
Let’s look at His method relative to conflict.
The first step is the simplest, yet, hardest:
GO TO THE OTHER
ATTEMPT TO RESOLVE THE MATTER
SEEK TO BE RECONCILED
This is regardless of whether we feel wronged (Matt. 18: 15), or the other thinks we wronged them (Matt. 5:23-24).
This is regardless of the other being believer or unbeliever.
This is regardless of the time, distance, or expense involved. Letters and phone calls are poor ways to communicate needed forgiveness, confession, love, repentance, etc. Those things need the face-to-face witness of the Spirit of God within us.
This is regardless of insurance. The existence of insurance, and the demands of the insurance company, should not be allowed to cause us to deny God’s claims on our lives.
And we are to consider this so important that we do it before going to church to worship, or before making offerings — Matt. 5:23-24.
Before we go to the person with whom we are in conflict, we need to stop and ask the Lord for wisdom.
We must consider if this a matter which we are called to overlook — Pro. 19:11. We overlook so long as relationship is not altered, and so long as we do not allow the other person to stay in a sinful pattern of life harmful to them or to others.
We seek God because we want to know our faults in the matter, if any, for we must confess them to the other person when we meet with them so that we may be healed (Jas. 5:16).
And we seek Him because we need His wisdom concerning our adversary, so that we may offer to bear their burdens if necessary.
We also go forgiving the other party their sins against us (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:34-35).
Finally, we may need “counsel of the believers” to discover our own faults, check our own attitudes, better understand how to go, etc.
When a client comes to us, we lawyers need to recognize that we are normally only one of several people our clients are talking to at this time. We need to discover who these others are, and seek to draw them into the process so that the Lord may unite the counselors in wisdom and instruction, and avoid double-mindedness.
Or we may need to bring in the wise and mature people of the church of our client to form a team. Our non-Christian clients do not have the benefit of a church to involve, but they do have friends with whom they are speaking about their troubles who may also represent a “multitude of counselors” to be brought into the process.
A standard question of mine is, “Who do you know, respect, see as wise and mature, who might be willing to help counsel you in this matter, and hold you accountable?” I have discovered that God often has His people on the scene. One of our functions is to find them and set them in place.
When taking counsel, it is best to have the counselors together. Often counselors keep separate from one another. We need them together so that the unity which they get through the Holy Spirit may be demonstrated to the person in conflict.
Then, once having selected a team, we should encourage our client to stick with it! People will otherwise look for confirmation of what they think, rather than wise counsel giving them God’s Truth.
The focus of meetings with counselors should be on the actions, inactions, attitudes, etc. of the client, and what steps they should take — not upon the other party. If the other person is spoken about, it is so that the client may better know that person’s needs (empathy).
And the counselors should know when the client is going to the other party, to a deposition, to court, etc, in order to be in prayer.
So, counsel is taken, the client goes, and it does no good.
What then? Then get “one or two” others to go along as “witnesses” (Matt. 18:16). I find that God often has His witnesses waiting in the wings to be used. A major function of the attorney is to help discover who God’s witnesses are, and draw them into the process, teaching them how to be witnesses.
They are not friends of our client so much as friends of the other party, for we are trying to get the other person to listen. He may listen to his friends.
Witnesses may be people who bring knowledge and life experiences which match up with the needs of the other party. If a problem with alcohol, find one who has, through the grace of God, overcome alcohol. If it is a problem in doing business in a Godly manner, find someone who operates a business in a Godly manner. Etc.
Generally, people in authority over the other person do not make good “witnesses”, but might be used at a “tell it to the church” level of the conflict resolution process (Matt. 18:17a). The problem with trying to use authority figures at the Matt. 18:16 stage is that when they appear at the door, they may be perceived as judges, and not as friendly potential burden bearers.
We do not tell witnesses what the conflict is, merely that there is a conflict between Sam and Joe, that Sam has spoken to Joe, the conflict remains, and would they, because Joe respects them, go with Sam to hear him state his complaint, hear Joe’s answer, and inject truth into the conflict.
What do the witnesses do? According to Matt. 18:16, in the Greek, they histemi the rema. Histemi = bold statement. Rema = the “word of God.”
Witnesses, having listened to the parties (hopefully in a joint session), retire and seek the Lord and Scriptures for truths which need to be spoken into the conflict. They pray and wait for the Lord to bring them into unity of counsel.
Then they return and speak this truth into the conflict — generally to the parties individually. These truths are not, “You need to pay Sam $5000.” They are, rather, “Here is where you fell short of the glory. If you can agree with God on that matter, and confess it to God and the other, then listen for what justice God might ask you to do.” Or it may be a call to forgive some sin of the other — failure to pay timely, but not necessarily the debt itself.
Lawyers must be “witnesses” to those who come to them seeking counsel and advice.
If either party receives the truth, they then do the justice which the Lord asks of them, relative to the matter, and they find peace. If both receive the truth, they will come back together in a shared spirit of reconciliation, and determine what to do with the conflict!
Note: any peace that results is the work of the Lord, not the work of the witnesses — witnesses need not think they must make peace.
So, Sam and the witnesses go, and it doesn’t work. What next?
Re-consider suffering the wrong.
If the other has violated the criminal or regulatory law of the land, then, after warning them, we might go with Sam to the authorities and report the matter (Rom. 13:1-7).
The lawyer and witnesses may “tell it to the leadership of the church of Joe” (Matt. 18:17). This could, if there is no church, mean going to the boss of Joe and appealing for intervention.
The witnesses go with Sam to the church, rather than Sam going alone, because the witnesses are more likely be heard by the church than is Sam (who will be seen as an interested party).
Witnesses tell the leaders of Joe’s church only that there is a conflict between Joe and Sam, that they have been witnesses, that the conflict remains, and that they feel Joe is not “listening” — more would be gossip. They simply ask help from those who are persons of authority in Joe’s life.
Witnesses might also “tell it to the church” of Sam that Sam is suffering a wrong, being defrauded, has burdens which need to be borne because he has chosen not to sue.
But, may we file a lawsuit for our client? I have no doubt but that God requires that our client first attempt Matt. 18:15-17a and Matt. 5:23-26.
Then, you and your client ought to consider submitting the decision of whether or not to sue to the counselors, witnesses, and/or the church for aid in the decision.
If, following all of these steps, we proceed with a law suit, we must understand that God will hold our clients and us accountable for our actions in the suit — including every word printed in letter or document, every word spoken in deposition, every act done in the court room.
As lawyers, we cannot do for the client what the Lord would never allow the client to do himself.
We must handle the lawsuit without attacking the other party or demeaning them or holding them up to ridicule. Be gentle towards them, and reverent towards the law and legal system. Help the client keep a willingness to drop the suit at any moment.
I suggest that the counselors/witnesses supervise both the client and the attorney in the conduct of the case, reading letters and documents before sent, etc.
One little example: “Wherefore the Plaintiff prays” that since the Defendant has done nothing the Judge should do the following things.”
Personally, I find that offensive — and I think God does too. It begins placing trust in man to meet needs, not God.
What about defending a lawsuit?
Again, we must attempt Matt. 5:23-26 and Matt. 18:15-20. We always have several days after service of Summons to do so.
Also, look at who is suing or being sued. We are told to let our “yes” be our “yes” and our “no” our “no”. In many instances — suits by or against government, corporations, or businesses, and suits over such matters as auto accidents — the nature of the suit and the nature of the person suing us will allow us to defend within these boundaries.
Another matter concerning the method of defense involves claiming Constitutional or legal “rights”.
I believe such defenses may be raised, assuming they do not contradict God’s Word, but only after we respond to questions asked of us (Matt. 5:37; I Pet. 3:15). If we use the law as a shield, we dishonor the Lord and show the world that our trust is in man and not the Lord. Look at how Shadrach, et. al., did it in Dan. 3:8-25.
Now, let us begin to look at areas of the law practice, and see some specific ways of helping our clients.
As we know, the Church is divided on divorce. Rather than enter that field of conflict, allow me to point out that nearly all agree that divorce is only permissible, and all agree that God can heal the worst fracture in a marriage.
So, our clients must now consider the issue of “permissibility” along with the issues of “justice” and “defeat” mentioned earlier.
I do not suggest that we announce that we do not handle domestic matters. Rather, let your door be open as a chance for witnessing the cry of Scripture for reconciliation. Then, rather than automatically suing or defending, let us be innovative in working with those who seek us out.
First, ask the prospective client who really wants the divorce. Often the client is seeking your help because their spouse said: “Go get a divorce or I will.” Well, if they are going to get one, let them start the ball! Also, many people seek a divorce because they think that they have no other alternative. Once options are set forth, and our willingness to help shown, many will turn aside.
Then, really listen to this person — hearing their complaints and the complaints that they know from their spouse. Get extensive family history on each spouse. Look for the child within the adult, still trying to get its needs met through others, rather than through God. Do some serious “image-of-God” analysis of each spouse. Help the one understand the other better, and themselves as well.
Next, seek to discover whom God has already placed in the lives of each of these people as witnesses. Be willing to physically call on the other spouse (even if they are represented by an attorney), and call on the possible witnesses, pastor, etc.
Some of my lawyer friends say that I cannot do such things as it would be violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
As I do not automatically make the one who comes to me a “client”, I am free to act as an intermediary.
Let’s look at Rule 2.2 of the Model Rules: “(a) A lawyer may act as intermediary between clients if: (1), (2), (3). (b) (c).”
Note that this rule deals exclusively with the situation where the lawyer is working with two clients. In the official Comments to the Rule, it says this: “The Rule does not apply to a lawyer acting as arbitrator or mediator between or among parties who are not clients of the lawyer * * *.”
While it is clear that this Rule does not prohibit what I propose — and I have not found any other Rule which would prohibit it, either — these additional portions of the Comments are interesting: “A lawyer acts as intermediary in seeking to establish or adjust a relationship between clients on an amicable and mutually advantageous basis; for example, * * *. The lawyer seeks to resolve potentially conflicting interests by developing the parties’ mutual interests.”
If, as a lawyer, I assist two people to each develop a closer walk with the Lord, have I not done something mutually advantageous? Does it not promote their mutual interests?
What I have learned to do is to greet potential clients with a statement that, for the purposes of this meeting, I grant them the confidentiality of the attorney/client privilege — but I add that I do not make them my client.
After listening to them tell what their problem is, I then witness God’s truth to them as to how they need to behave, and I also give them the truth of the law (informed consent).
I then outline a course of conduct for the two of us to take if I am to be their lawyer and they my client. If they agree, then the client relationship is or is not created based upon what the course of my conduct will be. If I am going to act as a minister of reconciliation, then there is not a client relationship and I am free to act under Rule 2.2.
I have placed this discussion under the marital section of this book, but the concept is equally appropriate in any form of conflict. For example, Sam comes to me and hands me a copy of a Complaint and Summons showing he has been sued by Joe for $100,000 in a business dispute — and showing that Joe is represented by an attorney. In the first meeting, I discover that the two of them are each members of the same church. I explain to Sam, God’s process for dealing with conflict, and invite him to go with me that very moment to Joe that I might offer the process to Joe. Sam agrees, and we go.
I submit that I have not violated any Rule, for I have not made Sam my client. And, should Joe desire, we could sit down together and I could assist them to resolve the conflict without any Rule violation. Further, if Joe, when approached, simply rejected the process, I could make Sam my client and represent him in normal manner (although, in this situation, my next step would be to go with Sam to the pastor of their church to try to enlist his support in getting Joe to the table!).
Sounds radical? Scary? All I can do is to invite you to check it out — with God and man (I will have a larger section on the Rules, later).
Well, a few final comments on marital matters.
“Introduce” the spouse desiring reconciliation to their own pastor as a modern day “widow”, the kids as “orphans”, and speak to the church about its role in bearing burdens and meeting the needs of the one seeking reconciliation, and of the one seeking escape.
Maybe the church will decide to provide necessities so that this spouse need not war against the other spouse in the courts.
If their church fails to act, consider leading the client to a church which will act. You might even consider some from of confrontation with the leaders of the church which refuses to act.
If criminal issues, such as physical or sexual abuse are present, you may take the “client” to law enforcement, and assist in that arena where the State is the aggressor.
Work with the “client” in letting go of their own need to see things happen their way, so they may accept whatever actually happens.
In short, get deeply, personally, involved!
I have seen many marriages saved by such an approach — an approach which challenges each person or group involved to the best that God would have of them.
Let me give you an example:
I met a man in February, 1990, over a cup of coffee, in a town about 250 miles from us. Five months later, he called and said that his wife of 35 years had just filed for divorce — and could I help. I told him that if he could get his wife to call me, I could try. To my surprise, she did call.
I went to their community, spent an evening with him, and a morning with her. In the process, I discovered that only a few doors away was another couple from their church whom they both deeply respected — and who had been married for 60 years.
I called on the older folks, and asked if they would like to try to help. They agreed.
That night, the five of us met together. In the course of the meeting, the wife complained again of the adultery her husband had committed 15 years earlier — an adultery which he had long ago confessed and repented of — but she could not see the repentance (for other reasons).
As she complained that we could not truly understand how difficult it was to live with a man who had committed adultery, the older couple told how they had had to face and deal with adultery over 50 years ago.
I did not know of this part of their past, nor did the husband or wife — the older couple had never shared it with anyone. When I say that God often times has His “witnesses” in place and waiting, I mean it!
The next day the wife dismissed the divorce case, I left town, the older couple kept exhorting and loving the two of them. Three months later, they were reconciled!
With all that has gone before, my comments on torts will be briefer, and related to two realities of law and life — insurance and bankruptcy.
(1) Insurance is a fact of life. Let me share a story from my practice of law.
A man, whom I knew to be a Christian, came to me saying that he ran a red light and broadsided another car. From them, he received a paper with their name and address. He gave this to his insurance company. Now he was sued for $150,000, and had only $50,000 of insurance. He came to me because of the “excess” issue.
I asked him how he was feeling, in general. He acknowledged some confusion, anger, etc. I asked if that might be because he had not confessed his fault to these people, and asked them for forgiveness.
The questions came hurtling: “Are you crazy? Could I really do that? What about the insurance company? How would this affect the lawsuit?”
I told him what Scripture had to say about confession and healing of emotions (Jas. 5:16). The more he thought it over, the more he was convicted that this was right before God (righteousness). He said he was willing to meet the other people and confess.
I called his insurance company to advise them of what we were intending to do. They screamed, and said that if this were done, they would cancel the policy, refuse to defend, and refuse to pay any judgment. I asked my client to wait outside my office — I had to say something to this company which I did not want to be a stumbling block to him.
I asked the company if they were asking my client to commit perjury. I asked them how their action might look to an insurance commissioner or Judge.
My client, given a clear choice — Jos. 24:15 — chose to give God’s method a try. We had the meeting with the other party, and their lawyer. The meeting brought peace to my client, reconciliation between the parties, a fishing trip between the two men in the future, and later a reasonable offer to settle which the insurance company, when informed, paid.
If settlement had not resulted, and the company carried through on its threat, there could have been a respectful appeal to the Insurance Commissioner of the State, the State of Incorporation, and all the States where it was licensed to sell. That may bring some heat to bear!
We must become advocates for other radical options.
Maybe we could get some legislation enacted which would allow people to practice this method. It might say the insurance companies had to have people present, without binding impact upon anyone, and with nothing that happens in the process to be useable in Court.
Maybe, as the process took place, a “witness” would go forth that God’s way works — and saves money in the process!
Maybe — we will never know until we become creative in looking at, and attempting, options, trusting in God to be glorified by our actions of obedience.
(2) In your case, however, something different might happen. There might be a great sacrifice and loss. That brings the second reality of the law into play — bankruptcy, and the protection which it affords.
I do not suggest this lightly, but the Sabbatical and Jubilee years of the Bible would lend some support for debt forgiveness forced when not granted freely. We should, however, seek all other avenues to avoid filing bankruptcy.
One such avenue would be for the church to intervene with the creditors, maybe even bearing the burden by paying the judgment.
Another way is to prepare the “schedules” of creditors, assets, income, etc., just like a bankruptcy filing, and mail them to all involved, along with a proposal for full payment over time. Name who the client has submitted themselves to for financial oversight. Confess the sins which have led to the financial condition. Help demonstrate a repentant heart.
Give the creditors an opportunity to exercise grace and reduce, or even cancel, debts. I have seen this process work.
The question for us as lawyers is, however:
Will we give our clients the opportunity to choose whom they will serve, by boldly speaking truth to them? And, do we begin to see that in every instance we are seeking to get people to sit down to a table, speak to one another, receive truth, and then choose how they will behave as unto the Lord?
I consider the greatest opportunity for an attorney to serve as a minister of reconciliation is in criminal cases.
When people are newly arrested (I am primarily speaking of the first-time offender), they are, for a brief time, closer to acknowledgment of their innate sinfulness than at any other time in their life.
They are closer to seeing how totally out of control they are, and how impossible it is for them to ever be in control.
They are more open to truth than ever.
And, they really expect the attorney to help them — counsel them in their emotional/spiritual needs.
So, what do we generally do?
Generally, we assist them down the path of denial, leading to an imprisonment of the soul.
What should we not do, and what should we do?
We do not help them, in any manner, deny their guilt, either before man or before God.
We do not, in any manner, give them any hope for the future apart from the grace of God (not the leniency of the Prosecutor or Judge).
We do not, in any manner, delay the first step towards repentance — confession to God and man.
Instead, we teach them the truth of “justice” — being from the Lord only, through confession, forgiveness, care-frontation, burden-bearing, and repentance — rather than coming from man.
Now, allow me to tell you a story to show how this all worked itself out in the daily practice of law.
A young man came charged with the crime of Attempted Murder, which carried a penalty of 20-50 years and was non-suspendable. The concern of the parents was how much the defense was going to cost.
When they entered, I recognized them, and recalled the article about the offense in the paper. I asked the boy if he had read the article, and if it was accurate. He said yes.
I turned to the parents and suggested a fee of $350.00. They thought that a reasonable retainer; I said it was my estimate of the total fee.
“How are you going to defend our son for only $350.00.” “I’m not going to defend him; he is guilty.”
The boy’s head fell to his knees, and mother began to shout. Then I started my sermon, teaching them truth.
“Mother, look at your son. Look at his head, his features. He knows his guilt. Yes, dumb, stupid prank, under the influence of booze. But he knows that but for the grace of God he would have killed that other boy. And he knew it when he did it.
“Now I have a problem. I can take a $5000.00 retainer fee and play the normal game of the law. But someday, maybe 18 months from now, your son will either plead guilty or be convicted. But 18 months from now he will no longer think he is guilty. His head won’t be down; his back will be stiff. His mind and heart will have covered up. And, not seeing himself guilty, he will scream for justice.
“If he plead guilty today, and the Judge, as a sentence, said he was going to cut off your son’s right arm, your son would lay out his arm and allow it to be cut off. He knows he is worthy of death before God, so a lost arm is slight in comparison. But, 18 months from now, a night in jail would be because the Judge was bigoted, blind, stupid, etc.
“Your son is being given a great choice today for the rest of his life. Will he do what is right — confess his fault and accept his punishment — and walk free before God and man even if in prison? Or will he seek to avoid it, and walk in a spiritual prison even if free on the streets.”
“But, but, but, but,” began the mother.
“Hold it, mother. It’s not your choice — it’s his.”
And, with that, I gave the boy his rights and all of the law. I told him I would not plea-bargain lest it assist him in covering his sin rather than confessing his sin.
Having offered no hope whatever (except for inner peace), I asked for his decision — go with me the next day and plead guilty, or leave and find another attorney.
Yes, I have been accused of malpractice for this method of practicing law. But, remember, I am not making the person my client until they have bought the whole package.
He said he would plead guilty — and left.
I called the Prosecutor: “George I represent Joe. We will meet you in Court tomorrow and plead guilty to whatever you want. I know that you can convict of Attempted Murder. But I think you know that you have over charged this case, taking into account not just the facts of the case but the individuality of the Defendant. But, that is your decision. We will just be there.”
George reduced the charge to Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter (a suspendable offense), and the boy plead guilty. He was sentenced to 10 years, suspended upon 2 years of work-release, all but three months being further suspended on the condition that the boy enter college.
The boy went off to college, forever, I hope, changed by the method employed.
This was how I practiced criminal law for 18 months after leaving the Bench — and I never had a potential client walk out on me. Everyone who told me they were guilty, accepted the sermon, and promptly plead guilty.
There were three things which I did not do at that time, which I would do if practicing criminal law today.
First, I would seek to involve my client directly with victims, even taking my client to the homes and businesses of people whom they may have harmed.
Second, I would seek to involve the church of my client, or get my client involved in a church, for the possible bearing of other burdens.
Third, I never considered overtly evangelizing a client. Today, I would.
CONTRACT AND OTHER BUSINESS DISPUTES
First, keep in mind that we are trying to get people in conflicts to sit down at a table with others, and talk. But the language which we use can get in the way of that taking place.
If you say you want to “help them resolve their conflict”, or you call this mediation, negotiation, investigation, compromise, or arbitration, the odds are that they will not come to the table. They will have, in all probability, raised the conflict to a theological level — “God will not allow negotiation; anything less than my position would not be justice;” etc.
But we can speak to them about allowing others to meet with them, hear the matters at issue, and then speak the Word quietly to them, individually.
Based upon what happens, the witnesses who speak the Word of Truth into the midst of the conflict may stick around to speak further, offer to sacrificially bear burdens, shake the dust, tell it to the church, applaud the work of the Lord, or weep for a hardened heart. Other than that, what happens will be what God brings about in the hearts of the parties.
Second, attention needs to be paid to how the people in conflict came to know one another. Were they introduced to each other, or recommended to one another? Who is the person who put them together, who might be a peacemaker? Who can help bring them to the table — pastors, golf buddies, bosses, etc?
Third, what about spouses, creditors, debtors — key people? Should one or more of these players be brought into the process to get the parties to agree to sit down and discuss, or to be witnesses? Are they people needed to help reach a full hearing of truth? Are they needed for a full and complete reconciliation to take place?
As a simple example, two partners in a business are the “legal” parties to the conflict. But you can be sure their wives are feeling the pain. Maybe the wives were friends, and their relationship has also been severed over the conflict. Look broadly for all those whom the Lord might want involved in the process.
Fourth, if the parties agree to meet with the witnesses, let the witnesses hire the accountants, lawyers, or other experts rather than have each party bring their own. The experts become technical resource material to the reconciliation team. Matt. 18:16 is not for judgement, and no one needs to get adversarial.
Fifth, regardless of the size of the entity involved — say in a product liability matter — there can always be a quiet and respectful appeal to those in control. You go to the salesman of the car, and he offers you no help. Then ask him to come with you to his boss — the sales manager. That doesn’t work; ask them to go with you to the owner(s). What about going to homes of members of the Board of Directors? And these people can be traced to churches, their pastors called upon, etc.
Certainly this takes more time and effort — but the emotional and spiritual blessing to our clients may be very great.
Again, let me close with some examples.
Sam hired Joe on a handshake. About a year later, Sam calls Joe in and says that he thinks Joe is not the man for the job. Joe says he was trying to figure out how to tell Sam that he needed to get out of a mistake in position. So they again shake hands.
Joe begins to leave, and, over his shoulder, says, “I don’t have all the figures together, but I will before I leave. I think the bonus will be about $80,000.”
Sam says, “What bonus?”
Now, these two men not only both loved the Lord, but had an idea of right behavior. So, they sat down and talked through the conversation of a year earlier. They totally agreed upon what each had said at the time, but discovered that they each had entirely different understandings of what the words meant that they were using. They were using legal and accountant language that they had picked up in the course of the years, but of which they did not know the true meanings.
One had heard of the Christian Conciliation Service, so the two of them, that very moment, jointly called — and I answered. They gave me a brief background, and asked if we could help. I asked them, “How did you two men first meet?”
They asked, “What has that got to do with anything?”
I said, “I don’t know; the question just popped into my mind, it didn’t seem Satanic, so I asked it.”
Well, it turned out that they had been introduced by a mutual friend, another Christian, who just happened to be a lawyer and C.P.A. by training!
Do you know the definition of a coincidence? It is when the Lord does a miracle and remains anonymous! I have seen a lot of miracles over the past 12 years.
So, we got the mutual friend, added a youth pastor and a housewife, and got them all together early one evening. Two hours later, the $80,000 conflict was resolved, and the two men went and got their wives. Then the two couples went out for dinner — together!
Another example really highlights some of the functions of the witnesses, and what happens at the time of the parties jointly meeting, rather then the issue of the business conflict — but this seems like a good place to put it.
Two men, members of the same church, whose wives were prayer partners, whose families had often eaten in the homes of one another and gone on ski trips together, went into business together. Along the way, they hired 7 other men of the church in the business. After 18 months, the two were ready to kill one another, they couldn’t agree upon who ever ate at whose house, or who drove what portions of any ski trip, the wives couldn’t pray together, and the church was beginning to choose up sides.
One approached me, and I approached the other. The first wanted a panel of three arbitrators while the other just wanted me to arbitrate the matter for them. So the first issue was who would give in to the other on the shape of the table!
Well, we decided on just myself, for mediation.
At the time of the meeting, I opened with a prayer (Matt. 18:19) in which I acknowledged that: there was not a one of us in the room that had any real understanding of peace, or any valid idea of what to do with this conflict; that we were all sinners, saved only by His grace, whose hearts were deceptively wicked; that we needed the presence of Christ in the room (Matt. 18:20); that we needed peace, orderliness, and calmness loosed among us; and that we did not need (and asked the Lord to keep from the room) any anger, deception, discord, etc. (Matt. 18:18). Amen.
I turned to the one who first contacted me and said, “In legal language, you are the Plaintiff, so state your case.”
He pulled forth a 12 page, legal size, single-spaced document, handed the other man a copy (I had seen it earlier) and began to read. He was unable to complete the first sentence.
He dropped the paper to the floor, and began to stammer out another story — of his alcoholism, his life out of control, his entering into the business out of greed and against his wife’s counsel, and many other things — including things of the business. But his story of the business was dramatically different than what he had written in the paper.
As he spoke, the other man kept nodding his head affirmatively.
At the end of the recitation, I turned to the other and said, “Well, in legal language, you are the Defendant. State your case.”
His reply was, “There is nothing to be said — everything he just said is true.”
Now, I had interviewed this man earlier, and his story was nothing like the story we had just heard. Yet, now in this room, in this atmosphere, Jesus Christ had brought every fact into agreement.
So I asked the “Defendant” what he thought ought to be done under the circumstances.
He pulled an old envelope from his pocket, and began to speak and write at the same time: “Well, what I think we ought to do, what we ought to do, what we ought to do.” He then handed the envelope to me.
He had just given the other man nearly 3 times what had been asked for — nearly $250,000 — in joy and peace!
The “Defendant” then asked, “How long it will it take to write all this up in a legal document and get it signed?”
I replied, “I thought we were doing fine under the Spirit; why should we now get the law into this?” His reply was, “Well, how are we to remember what we are each going to do, and then know that we have done it?”
I took the envelope out to the copy machine and made three copies — and the case was over.
Well, there were several other things still to be done. First, the two men met with all their employees and gave a testimony of working this matter out, building one another up in the process.
Then they did the same thing at the church one Sunday.
And they got their families together for dinner again.
Do these cases help you see the potential for ministry walking through your door at this moment?
JUVENILE AND CIVIL MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
The principles discussed apply equally here, but there are some things to be aware of which are common to Juvenile and Mental Health areas, and which we need to overcome.
First, people caught up in these systems tend to think that the social workers are possessed by Satan. We must seek to dispel that thought. Social workers are, by and large, people who have seen nightmares and have 5 times the amount of work to do that any human could ever do. Thus they tend to run from bonfire to bonfire, not getting control of anything.
You, with the help of the church, have more time and resources to investigate, get to truth, and offer meaningful options and assistance than does the system!
Second, social workers can get so hung up on “theology” that they overlook poverty, physical handicaps, educational deficits, and other tangible needs. I recall a 10 year old who was diagnosed as “post-traumatic divorce syndrome coupled to second marriage and step-parent adjustment”. He set fires! What happened was that a person at an “off-the-rack” glasses shop told the mother the boy did not need glasses any longer. The mother removed the glasses, and couldn’t hear the boy say he couldn’t see. So the boy acted out. I noticed the visual problem because the boy looked at me with his head tilted — just as our visually impaired son did for years. He got new glasses, and the behavior ceased.
Third, our judges need to be educated. They tend to accept blindly the suggestions, evaluations, etc. of the service providers. Service providers have basically captured the system. Thus, you must be prepared, and always on the offensive, but without being offensive.
Never accept from the social workers a proposal which fails to address the “weightier matters of the law.”
Respectfully request a full evidentiary hearing before the court.
Subpoena service providers, evaluators, etc. — don’t accept written reports into evidence unless you can agree 100% with what is being said.
Require the diagnosis to be substantiated by acts of behavior, and give alternative explanations for the acts when such exist. This is a bit like looking at motive. When you attack me, I normally determine your motive is evil. But if I pause, and reflect, I may discover a motive of love — even though the method lacks grace.
Offer well thought out options for treatment.
View the facilities to which people may be sent for “treatment”. Ask the Court to take a view of the facilities.
Know what rights of treatment are guaranteed by statutes — rights which are generally ignored because there are no funds for the programs needed. Learn what programs are recognized and accepted by the professional community for true treatment of the needs you are seeing and then advocate (respectfully demand under the statutes!) that those programs be funded. Let the Judge know that he has the power, through Contempt and Mandamus, to create and fund the needed programs.
What you are seeking to do is get total truth (rema) before the court — the throne of grace.
Fourth, get all the people who are involved in the family — evaluators, school personnel, foster parents, service providers, therapists, etc. — speaking to one another. My experience was they tend to work in their own turfs, never communicating with one another, and chaos results. This is merely another aspect of the “multitude of counselors” and “double-mindedness” issues addressed earlier.
Fifth, we again have the church as a tremendous resource — housing, tutoring, care-frontation, burden-bearing, etc. Within the church are people who have had experiences similar to those you are facing in the families whom you represent.
Remember, “My ways are not your ways,’ sayeth the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways.” Our brains are, in fact, 180 degrees out of sync with God. We need to work hard at over coming that difference, and implementing the difference into our practice.
FORMING CONTRACTS AND OTHER BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS
I want to begin with what I believe are the three most important things in forming businesses:
(1) The nature of documents;
(2) The need to do all face-to-face; and,
(3) The involvement of spouses.
Then I will set forth some documentary examples.
This book has many pages to it and might, for purposes of analogy, be likened to a contract. But, move it 15 feet away from you, and what do you have?
Black dots on white paper.
And so it is with commercial documents — they are, in truth and fact, black dots on white paper.
Absent trust and relationship, our business documents have no self-determining meaning — they are just black dots on white paper.
Once they are executed, they go into desk drawers, and the parties never look at them until there is a conflict — until trust or relationship are breached.
“A” then takes his to an attorney who says: “This means XYZ.” “B” takes his to an attorney who says: “This means MNO.” And the war is on.
The document has no intrinsic meaning. It will take on meaning under only one of two circumstances: the parties re-enter relationship of heart, though not necessarily business (reconciliation); or someone tells them what it means (Judge or I Cor. 6:5 wise people)!
Our clients need to know this lest they place trust and confidence in the document, or the system, for “justice”.
Second, the formation of business relationships needs to be conducted around large tables, with all needed parties present, so every one hears everyone.
Too often, “A” uses attorney “X”, and “B” uses attorney “Z”. Papers are drafted and sent back and forth between the attorneys — and the parties never meet!
They have not established relationship at all the levels needed at the beginning. They have not had an opportunity for the minds to meet over the meaning of the language used. They started in law, and will continue in law, rather than relationship. They have each been shorted in “truth”. Much that ought to be covered never was.
For example, what are the “gifts,” “needs,” and expectations” each party brings to the new endeavor? How will they deal with conflicts which come?
“A” comes to a lawyer to form a corporation. He names the subscribers, incorporators, shareholders, officers, and directors. But do we ever meet these people? Do we ever help them understand what their involvement is really about, or could result in?
Not too often — generally we just fill in the blanks as “A” tells us.
Have we helped them prepare for conflict?
Then there is the matter of the involvement of spouses. Leave a spouse out of the transaction and the two-who-are-to-be-one are divided, in spirit if not in fact. Fear and other questions set in. And husbands are admonished to give regard to the advice of their wives, and wives are told to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives.
There can be an issue of who is in managerial or financial control. Are we creating mutual dependency in harmony, or a sense of autonomy?
One example which comes to mind is the two men, members of the same church, who entered into a business partnership. Each of these men led the high life — big house, fancy car, all the toys imaginable, etc. And, for each of them, their life style was a sham.
Now, these two men knew that, in the early days of the business, there would be a need for some considerable cash input to keep the pump primed — and each believed that the other had the resources needed. “Therefore,” each thought to himself, “if I don’t get my money in when due, the other can handle things until I shake up the chickens a bit more.”
You can imagine what happened.
This kind of conflict can be avoided by the lawyer acting as a minister of reconciliation in the formation of the contract.
With those thoughts, here are some “spiritual business forms” which I hope you will enjoy. As you read them, do not read them from a legal standpoint, but from a spiritual. Think of them as preambles to more traditional documents:
A COVENANT FOR LEADERSHIP (BOARD OF DIRECTORS?)
The undersigned occupies, as to (name of org) a position of membership and/or authority. Yet I know that unless the Lord builds the house we labor in vain. I know that I am but His workmanship in that process, and that He has prepared the work.
Knowing that nothing good lives within me (Rom. 7:18), and knowing that disputes and dissensions of every nature may arise, yet knowing also that we are destined to sit together at God’s banquet table in heaven, I execute this covenant to confirm my desire to deal rightly with you.
I profess Jesus Christ as my Savior and confess that I have granted Him Lordship over my life. At the same time, I know that I continue to control areas which Christ would control. Therefore, I express my desire and willingness to receive fraternal admonition from you as to my personal life.
I also commit to give such to you should the need arise.
I accept as genuine, the profession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior made to me by any other person involved in this organization.
I am personally committed to the practice of peace in my relationships — personal, marital, commercial, or other — and will strive to display Christ in my daily life. I will seek to avoid doing any act, personally, professionally, or otherwise, which would prevent reconciliation of others.
I believe that this organization is one founded upon the Word of God, as best expressed in the Holy Bible. So, I will look to His Word for guidance of this organization. But I also know that His Word is to first be a lamp unto my feet; secondly, a sharp sword against my adversary, the Devil; and, thirdly, as to my fellow human, a tool for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness that all may be adequate and equipped for His works (II Tim. 3:16-17). It is to be used only with kindness and forbearance (Rom. 2:4).
I acknowledge that it is my desire to be led by the Holy Spirit in all that I may do, or we may collectively do, in this organization. I set no boundaries upon those doing His work as to what they may or may not do under His leading.
Should one commit an act which I believe to be error before God, I will deal with it as directed by Jesus Christ in Matt. 18:15-17a with the attitude displayed in Matt. 18:12-14 and Matt. 18:21-35.
I further believe that this organization is a ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ worked out through our individual hollow vessels, which He has filled
with good gifts, working together and deferring one to another in love, for His glory and not our own. As such, I am willing to have my name associated with this organization though the organization shall lack any measure of success before man, or even be considered a failure, or disband, or suffer due to errors of leaders.
I also trust that the ministry of Jesus Christ will continue regardless of what may happen to this organization or to any one of us.
I am committed to an attitude of oneness to all those involved in this organization, for I am one with them in Christ. That oneness shall persist, in so far as it rests within me, regardless of what may happen to the organization or my participation.
Should I discover that there is any matter at issue between me and another person in this organization, I will quickly seek to resolve the same as provided for in Matt. 5:23-24 or Matt. 18:15-17a, knowing that reconciliation of relationship is more important than victory in conflict.
If another in this organization has a dispute with me, now or in the future, I beg them to come and speak quietly with me that we may be reconciled. Should any person feel that I am not listening, and desire to bring witnesses to confront me, I declare the following persons to be ones whom I respect, and to whom I am committed to listen when they speak:
A COVENANT OF BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP (PARTNERSHIP?)
Recognizing that anything devised by man without Jesus Christ as the cornerstone causes God to laugh and scoff (Psalms 2), we, _______________ and _____________________, enter into a covenant with and before God and among ourselves, to the glory of the Lord and not ourselves.
We each hereby reaffirm our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, submission to His Lordship, and commitment to the Bible as a light to our paths. We each accept the profession of faith of the other and see ourselves as bound together in a oneness in the Body of Christ which shall always survive any other relationship which we may have with one another.
We accept that our first relationship must be with God through Jesus Christ, and that Christ asks to be center of all our other actions — spouse, family, friends, church, community, and business — equally. We covenant, one with another, to seek after such equality of His centeredness.
___________________ and _______________________ are entering into a joint business venture. For this venture we have selected the name _______. The business will operate in the area of ______, for the purposes of ____________. We proclaim that this business is the business of Christ rather than the business of either of us, individually, or of us jointly. Thus, this business has the right to fail, in the eyes of man, but the relationship between, as to God, ought not to fail.
___________________ and _______________________ as the spouses of the parties, each consent to their spouse entering into this relationship. As spouses we covenant with one another to keep both spouses, their relationship, and the business, lifted up in prayer. We further covenant that we will not hear from our spouse any gossip concerning the other, or the spouse of the other, and will call witnesses to confront such should such occur.
____________________ and ______________________ have discussed with one another what each brings to the business — not merely money and property but gifts, talents, skills, needs, expectations, and life experiences. We see all of these matters and things as of equal value and worth in the sight of the Lord, and necessary for the building of us up in unity in Jesus Christ and in unity in business and personal relationship.
All those who sign this document acknowledge that we are sinners, saved only by grace, and that we often walk after the flesh instead of by the Spirit of God. When we walk after the flesh, such actions can serve to divide us and bring dispute among us and offer our common adversary, the Devil, an opportunity to prey upon us.
We also recognize that Jesus Christ taught us, by Word and action, how to deal with dispute and division when it occurs.
Therefore, we each pledge to, and agree with the other to, practice the principles of Matt. 23-26 and Matt. 18:1-35, and to refrain from action at law as directed in I Cor. 6:1-8, should disputes arise.
We also acknowledge that should disputes arise among us, it is likely we will not “listen” to the other. Therefore, to assist us in carrying out the Lord’s principles of Biblical peacemaking, to serve as “witnesses”, and to serve as “wise men” empowered by us to decide matters between us, we each name our witnesses as follows:
Witnesses of Party A: ____________; ___________
Witnesses of Party B: ____________; ___________
If, after having gone to the other party, the dispute remains unresolved, then whichever of us believes himself offended shall inform the other that he intends to call the witnesses of the other for further confrontation. If such notice fails to resolve the matter, he shall then ask the witnesses to come forth, without bearing any tale against the other in the process. After confrontation with the witnesses and the matter still being unresolved, the remaining two witnesses shall be called in, and the four witnesses shall than act as “wise men” and render a decision. In so doing, the witnesses may seek expert assistance from whomever they deem necessary. Any decision of the witnesses shall be based upon Scripture, and not man’s law, and we agree to be bound by any such decision.
We further agree that should there ever be a need to divide the business — because of dispute, or death, or upon request of a party, or for any other
reason — the witnesses shall be called upon to determine values, manner of division, and method of payment if we are unable to agree among themselves.
Acknowledging that no disagreement among us can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39), nor from the love of one another for each other, we now execute this covenant as unto the Lord and unto one another this ______ day of _______________, 19_____.
(Parties, wives, and witnesses all sign)
SUBMISSION TO OVERSIGHT
(Cert. of Assumed Business Name?)
I know that no good thing dwells within my flesh. I do things which I ought not to do, and do not do all I ought to do. The more I stray from Jesus Christ, or the deeper I become immersed in self, or the moment I become involved in a dispute, I know that I will place logs in my eyes and ears, impeding me from seeing or hearing truth. Even as I do what might be considered a “good work” for the Lord, I give Satan an opening to take me into excess of self-adulation and excess of action, thus turning me from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I know that I must have oversight by others:
— As to every area of my life — physical and spiritual;
— As to all with whom I make contact — my spouse, family, neighbors, friends, people at church and people to whom I strive to minister; and,
— As to financial matters — what I have, what I want, what I spend, what I receive, how I receive it, what I give back to the Lord Who gives to me.
But my overseers must be strong and courageous people, while tender, patient and long-suffering. They must never become awed regardless of how far I may rise. They must never desert me — except for a season as discipline — regardless of how far I may fall. They must seek me out in the dark of night when I strive to avoid them. They must sit silently on my dung hill when I refuse to speak my pain and am immobilized in confusion, or when I speak forth words without meaning. They must be willing to take the initiative, or be willing to step back and await the hand of God. They must know God’s Word and be comfortable in the use of It to instruct, reprove, correct, and train me up. Finally, they must be committed to the practice of Matt. 18:15-17a upon me and willing, should the need arise, to publicly declare me “rendered unto Satan”.
Having said this, I declare the following to be my overseers, having secured their agreement to serve:____________________________. This oversight begins this ____ day of _______, 19__, with the following acts: (1) A display to them of the entirety of my finances, including a viewing of my physical assets; (2) By giving them written right to obtain information from any other person or institution concerning me; (3) By granting my wife and children authority to approach my overseers with complaints against me at any time, and releasing them and my overseers of any need to avoid gossip or tale-bearing; (4) By establishing a regular meeting time with one or more of my several overseers; and (5) By attempting to share with my overseers, as the Lord gives me the strength, the struggles of the flesh with which I currently struggle so that they may exhort me, pray for me, and hold me accountable to delivering such matters to the Lordship of Jesus.
Finally, I have delivered a copy of this to the pastor of _____________ Church, that portion of the Body of Christ which I call my church home, for I recognize his authority in my life.
A CHRISTIAN GRIEVANCE/DISCIPLINARY POLICY
As an employee, you will have many possible conflicts, but all may be boiled down to one of two types: (1) where you believe another has wronged you; and (2) where you discover another thinks you wronged them. This other may be a fellow worker (student), a supervisor (staff member), or a member of management (faculty). It does not matter who the other is, in so far as how you are to deal with the conflict — the steps are always the same.
Step 1: Pause and take spiritual inventory. Get right with God before you embark upon Step #2. Allow His Spirit to search you for your fault in the matter, and for the things you must confess to this other person when you meet them. If you are unsure of your own actions, gather two or three other people together in a room, and take counsel of them. But do not identify the other party unless absolutely necessary. Select people who are not awed of you, and will be forthright with you. These counselors are to help you place your actions, inactions, attitudes, etc. against the plumb-line of the Lord. They are to help you turn your focus away from the wrong done to you and towards God’s call upon your life for unity, reconciliation, and peace.
Step 2. Go to the other seeking reconciliation and resolution of the conflict, rather than victory. Your going is more important to God than attendance in church or offerings (Matt. 5:23-24). Go as a searching shepherd (Matt. 18:12-14), and as one who has been forgiven more than this other person could possibly owe you, and more than you could ever repay (Matt. 18:21-35). Go confessing your faults so that you may be healed regardless of the actions of the other (Jas. 5:16).
Step 3. Seek the Lord. If Step 2 did not end the matter, should you drop it or proceed further? Take counsel of the others, the Lord, and the Word. Regardless of your decision at this point, do not allow relationship with the other person to end — “In so far as it rests with you, live at peace” — Rom. 12:18. God does not stop relationship with you when you have sinned!
Step 4. Take one or two others along. In seeking out these “others”, there are two things to be aware of: first, you cannot tell them what the problem is, only that there is a problem, for you would be otherwise gossiping; and, second, select people whom you have reason to believe the other respects and will, therefore, listen to. Do not select this person from a position of authority over the other party, or from the leadership of the other’s church, for they will look like judges!
Step 5. If this did not work, seek the Lord. Repeat step 3!
Step 6. When the other party is a fellow-worker, and you have attempted step 4, have the people who became involved at Step 4 contact (Name of Official). When the other is a supervisor, have them contact __________. When the other is a member of management, have them contact ________________. When contacting the appropriate person, the witnesses are not to disclose details, only that conflict exists, that they were witnesses, and conflict continues. While this is taking place, you must begin to release this conflict to the Lord and those in authority, so that if judgment should take place you can accept the decision rather than become divisive. In each instance, the appropriate official will assist. This is the equivalent of Matt. 18:17a. If your dispute is with a person in authority in this company (college), you may bring your own “witnesses” from the Body of Christ to any meetings held under Step 6. We, as those in authority over you, are always willing to have others from the Body of Christ view and review how we act and give input.
Step 7. If still not satisfied, seek the Lord.
Step 8. Appeal. If, as a result of the above steps, actions have been taken against you which you consider to be disciplinary in nature, you have a right to appeal that order to ______________________ who has the right (not duty) to exercise grace and mercy in the matter. As an example, let us say that you have been terminated from work. That is an act of discipline from which an appeal would lie. The ______________, as might God, could remove any or all of the penalty from you although you might be totally unworthy. As another example, let us say that you were ordered to pay the other $500. That is not an act of discipline, and there would be no appeal. You are required to accept the judgement of those the Lord places in authority — right or wrong — and trust for your ultimate justice from Him Who judges righteously, just as did Christ (I Pet. 2:23).
OUR PLEDGE TO OUR CUSTOMERS (Guarantee/Warranty?)
Many places give guarantees of workmanship or products. But, a guarantee is really a statement limiting one’s word and behavior. A guarantee says: “My word is only good for so long, and under such conditions.” In comparison, Christ said: “Let your yes be your yes, and your no your no.” Finally, in most guarantees, you will see that the decision on honoring the guarantee rests with the company. The customer is left with no recourse but to start legal action.
We believe that lawsuits are a very poor way to resolve disputes. They tend to exhaust time, money and emotion; they tend to be “win-lose” only; they tend to divide people and relationships.
We are Christians and strive to do what we do as we believe Jesus would have done. But we are humans, and we do make mistakes. When that happens, or when someone thinks we have made a mistake, we want to deal with the conflict as Christ teaches.
This flyer has been prepared to explain to you how we would like to deal with any disputes we may have with you. We hope that you will choose to meet us.
STEP #1: If you think we have wronged you, we invite you to come to us in person and discuss the matter. We promise that, if you come, we will cease all labors in order to give you undivided attention. If you call us and suggest there is a dispute and ask to meet where our workmanship or product is, we will meet you there within 24 hours.
If we think that you have wronged us, we will come to you in person to discuss the matter. We will strive to come without judgment, or anger, or conviction of the rightness of our beliefs. We will come prepared to speak quietly, to listen to you, and to ponder all that you may say.
STEP #2: If meetings such as these fail to resolve the matter, we believe that it is best to move quickly towards a decision. We are aware that the longer matters go unresolved, the greater may grow anger and bitterness, and the separation from each other. What will be the decision making process?
One way is for each of us to bring one or two friends to another meeting — Matt. 18:16 — hoping that these people will hear and speak truth to us, that we will appropriate the truth, and that we will then be able to resolve the conflict. This would be something like mediation.
Another way would be to agree upon one or more people whom we all know, and ask them to decide the case (I Cor. 6:5). This would be arbitration.
There is also available a process through the Christian Conciliation Service of _________. They would appoint a panel of people to listen to us and then make a decision. These people are drawn from all walks of life and all denominations. Often one will be an attorney. These people are volunteers. They will interview us together, look at evidence, review documents, etc., and render a decision. We are willing to be bound by their decision. However, you do not have to so agree, although we hope that you would. You should know that it is a part of our policy to contribute to CCS whenever they render assistance to us in disputes, for we believe in the ministry and desire to support it.
Once again, only a few comments.
What ever happened to the “testament” in the Last Will and Testament? Why shouldn’t a person use their Will as a means to speak from beyond the grave about their faith, the matters important to their life, etc.?
Particularly today, with the electronic equipment available, there is opportunity for one to testify, to offer hope, joy, peace, encouragement to those whom they loved. Maybe some of the technological improvements are not accepted as legal in your state. OK. Do the legal document, and add the technological item as a preamble.
How about some language giving people the chance to work together, rather than fight:
“All my personal property I leave to my kids, to divide among themselves as they shall agree. Whatever each shall receive through cooperative division, the values shall be deemed equal to that which the others have received. To the extent they are unable to agree over a specific item, or agree as to value, then all items not agreed upon shall be auctioned off, at which auction the kids may not bid.” (That’ll teach them!)
Then there is another issue — trusts and foundations which go on forever. And I am very disturbed when churches are recipients of these. What about the concept of the Sabbatical Year? What about the Year of Jubilee? Is not a part of this concept that all is God’s, nothing is “ours?” That all is transient rather than permanent? That our trust is to be in Him to provide, not man? Is not the “supply” supposed to be kept in circulation?
Recently I read an article concerning a church and its $28 million of assets. It was discovered that some of this was in stock in companies making birth-control devices, some in manufacturer of nuclear weapons, and some in companies doing business in South Africa. When questioned, the spokes-person acknowledged that these caused concern, but added: “If we were to invest only on Biblical principles, maybe there would be nothing to invest in.” And, the widows, orphans, and strangers in the land of that city might have $28 million of burden-bearing help!
How many churches have gone captive to memorial funds? How many churches have been divided over who gets to control these funds?
For that matter, what about the very value of the brick and mortar structures we call the church, and stay within rather than going there from?
How many kids have been ruined by trust funds and have no idea of work, or sacrifice?
How many souls have given money thinking they were honoring the Lord, when all the Lord wanted was their heart?
Let us help our clients at least consider such things.
RELIGIOUS AND PERSONAL LIBERTIES
How many times do we hear: “It is my right!” How many times to we hear: “This is a religious liberty matter?” And off to the war we go.
I am convinced that God is not only concerned with what we do, but with how we do it. I believe that the rules applicable to people in Tort conflict are equally applicable to people and organizations in “rights” and “liberties” types of conflict.
Let me look at two recent situations.
A pro-choice-in-abortion group sued the I.R.S. to revoke the tax exempt status of two religious groups. The claim was that the Christians were engaged in political activity, and lobbying in the area of pro-life in violation of the law granting them tax-exemption. To prove their case, the pro-choice group got a court order for the Christians to turn over records of expenditures, and minutes of meetings where decisions were made on expenditures.
The Christians refused on Constitutional and other legal theories.
I see this as using the law as a shield rather than using right behavior before God and trust in God as our first line of defense. I also see such form of defense as a poor witness of our faith to the world.
In comparison, look at how Shadrach, et. al. responded when they were attacked. They did not complain that the law or the king were unrighteous
or unconstitutional. They respected authority (Rom. 13:1-7). And they walked free through the fire of the attack (Dan. 3:25).
Yes, we may use the Constitution and laws in defense — but only after giving account, after responding to the questions asked. We are not to place our defense or our trust upon man, his ways, his laws, his systems — only upon God.
A more difficult case to discuss is Nally v Grace Community Church.
A young adult committed suicide. Later, his parents blamed the church and individuals for the death. The church sought to resolve the matter without litigation, but could not do so. The parents filed suit.
In this case, the church, in defense, would be faced with two questions: (1) What did you do or say (or not do or not say) to the deceased; and (2) Why did you do it?
To answer the first question causes no problem in light of Matt. 5:37. The second question does present a problem — to answer requires uncovering the sins of the dead man; it means talking about what troubled him; it may mean talking about others in his family; it means causing more pain to those who grieve; and it seems to say to the world that his reputation is less important than the rights or property of the church.
I wonder about the questions-of-heart of the family: “How did we so fail our son that he would commit suicide? ” “Did our son lose his soul in the process?” “Will we see our son in heaven?” “Why, God, why?”
The questions of Job.
Questions like this can never be answered in a Court of Law, win or lose. Questions like this can only be answered by getting a grip on a God so great that you can trust in Him — Job 42:1-6.
If the church had chosen to suffer the wrong — as did Christ on the cross — to deed over all that it had to the parents, might they have seen a love so great that they might believe in The God Who moves people to such depths of love? Would that bear the burdens of the parents, and help them to healing of anger, bitterness, pain, confusion?
I don’t say this should have happened here — but I use the case to highlight the need to ask the questions, and wrestle with the answers.
By choosing to suffer the wrong, we may lose building, furnishings, and accounts over which we see ourselves as stewards. But, first and foremost, we are to be stewards of our actions as ambassadors to the world for Christ, ministers of reconciliation. We must never hold on to material things so as to defeat witness.
Let us, as we face these situations, keep in mind that our church properties can be as much mammon as our personal wealth. Let us keep in mind that God does not think in terms of rights and property, but of relationships, sacrifice, and bearing the burdens of others.
Our example and model is Jesus Christ — and He laid down all rights, position, and properties — and died. He could have called ten thousand angels.
RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT
I might well have opened this book with this next section, but chose to place it near the end — right before the practical matter of fees, and the reality matter of spiritual warfare.
I want to examine some of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and ask a question: “What can I, as a lawyer, do and not do as ministry with my clients, while remaining within the Rules?”
There are at least three reasons why this must be considered: first, so that the Rules of man may be honored if they do not conflict with the Laws of God; second, so that the cost may be counted (Luke 14:28-33), for obedience to God may mean a loss in fees; and, third, to overcome the fear of being sued for malpractice!
The quotations which follow are taken from the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association on August 2, 1983. As you read, the underlined portions I have highlighted to correlate to the purpose of this book. I have added the portions in parentheses to broaden our thought processes.
Preamble: A Lawyers Responsibilities
A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.
As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate * * *. As negotiator * * *. As intermediary * *.
* * *
Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship to our legal system (and to the emotional and spiritual health of those who seek them out).
Do you see some “weightier matters of the law” at issue here? Words like “representative,” “officer,” “special responsibility,” “quality of justice” — what significance do they have for the Christian? Are they worthy of meditation? What about “informed understanding,” or “practical implications?”
(a) A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision concerning the objectives of representation, subject to paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.
Comment: The client has ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by law and the lawyer’s professional obligations. Within those limits, a client also has the right to consult with the lawyer about the means to be used.
* * *
A lawyer is required to give an honest opinion about the actual consequences that appear likely to result from a client’s (or the lawyer’s) conduct.
As we continue, remember the phrases: “honest opinion,” and “actual consequences.”
(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the state of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Comment: The client should have sufficient information to participate intelligently in decisions concerning the objectives of the representation and the means by which they are to be pursued, to the extent the client is willing and able to do so.
* * * In litigation a lawyer should explain the general strategy and prospects of success and ordinarily should consult the client on tactics that might injure or coerce others.
My first comment on this Rule is whether the underlined portion recalls I Cor. 6:8 to your mind? My second comment is that the major gripe of people I work with, who also have a lawyer involved, is that the lawyer does not keep them informed about what is happening. They see it as a “we’ll call you if we need you” attitude. But, while this may have some truth to it, I do not believe it to be the entire truth.
Often times, when this takes place, it is not that the client has not been informed but that they, because of the confusion the conflict is causing, do not hear and understand what is being said. I find that much of this can be avoided if the lawyer gets the client to involve another person in the process, and has this lay person also attend meetings.
In connection with this comment, consider:
(a) When a client’s ability to make adequately considered decisions in connection with the representation is impaired, whether because of minority, mental disability, or for some other reason, the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client.
(b) A lawyer may see the appointment of a guardian or take other protective action with respect to a client only when the lawyer reasonably believes that the client cannot adequately act in the client’s own best interest.
If conflict, as I have alleged, does cause chaos in the life of the client; if their own sins of omission and commission impede their ability to know truth; if this is, in fact, spiritual warfare — then we must accept the fact that our clients are impaired, and the lay helper might be likened to a guardian.
In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. In rendering advice, a lawyer may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral (emotional, spiritual, religious), economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client’s situation.
It may be that in this short and simple Rule we find the authority — nay, compulsion — of man for all that I have been presenting. Let’s look at the Comments:
A client is entitled to straightforward advice expressing the lawyer’s honest assessment. Legal advice often involves unpleasant facts and alternatives that a client may be disinclined to confront. In presenting advice, a lawyer endeavors to sustain the client’s morale and may put advice in as acceptable a form as honesty permits (“But, speaking the truth in love” — Gal. 4:15). However a lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client.
Advice couched in narrowly legal terms may be of little value to the client, especially where practical considerations, such as cost (what of the emotional and spiritual costs) or effects on other people (I Cor. 6:8, again), are predominant. Purely technical legal advice, therefore, can sometimes be inadequate. It is proper for a lawyer to refer to relevant moral (emotional; spiritual) and ethical considerations in giving advice. Although a lawyer is not a moral advisor as such, moral and ethical considerations impinge upon most legal questions and may decisively influence how the law will be applied.
If this is true as to how the law may be applied, is it not also true as to what tactics should or should not be employed?
The Comments continue with something which does not even allow us, as I see it, to omit to fully discuss these matters:
A client may expressly or impliedly ask the lawyer for purely technical advice. * * * When such a request is made by a client inexperienced in legal (emotional; spiritual) matters (are any of them truly experienced; can we gamble on which they may be without examining the matter?), however, the lawyer’s responsibility, as advisor, may include indicating that more may be involved than strictly legal considerations.
Matters that go beyond strictly legal questions may also be in the domain of another profession. * * * psychiatry, clinical psychology, or social work (or Church) * * * accounting profession or financial specialists (or pastors). Where consultation with a professional in another field is itself something a competent lawyer would recommend, the lawyer should make such a recommendation.
In general, a lawyer is not expected to give advice until asked by the client. However, when a lawyer knows that a client proposes a course of action that is likely to result in substantial adverse legal (emotional; spiritual) consequences to the client (or others; party; spouse; employees; those watching from the sidelines), duty to the client under Rule 1.4 may require that the lawyer act if the client’s course of action is related to the representation.
Please go back and read that over again, and meditate upon it.
Now, I could draft a document which would release you of any obligation to consider and act upon these Rules, but I was not the author of the Rules — the release, as you well know, would be of no value.
I could also draft a release relative to your Biblical obligations before God — but I didn’t write the Bible, either!
I submit that, as Christians, we know some things which our clients need to know if they are to have a chance at a more abundant life.
I further submit that if we do not inform them of these “weightier matters of the law,” and seek to lead them towards reconciliation, we violate the full meaning of this portion of the Rules — and we violate God’s will for the professional portion of our life.
The question is not whether I will get sued for malpractice if I act in the manner described in this book.
The question is whether it is malpractice, and unrighteousness, if I fail to act according to these principles!
IN THE MATTER OF FEES
I know that four questions are burning in your stomach:
(1) If I dare to try this radical approach to the practice of law, how will I feed myself and family ?
(2) How can I expect people to accept these wild suggestions, rather than walk out of my office?
(3) How can I get them to see that spiritual advice is of even greater value than legal?
(4) How will I get paid?
I guess this is where the rubber of your faith hits the road of reality.
Keep in mind that faith is not a noun — it is not something we grit our teeth over, and mutter to ourselves, “More faith, more faith, more faith.”
Faith is an action verb. When the paralytic was told, “Pick up your pallet and walk,” he had to choose to do so. It was the active-verb-faith of his friends which brought him to the roof, opened a hole, and lowered him before Christ. Now it had to be his active-verb-faith which would decide to move his muscles.
I cannot act for you, or remove the fear. But I can make a suggestion.
Keep track of your hours in two columns: legal advice and services; spiritual advice and services. Then, when it comes time to submit a bill, submit two bills — one for each — with itemized hours.
For the legal services, total the hours, multiply by the hourly rate, and give a total. For the spiritual service, total the hours and then type, “to be paid pursuant to Gal. 6:6: ‘Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.'”
FOR JUDGES ONLY
It probably seems ludicrous for one who only lasted 5 years as a Judge, was found in Criminal Contempt of his Supreme Court for Judicial Misconduct, and who faced removal proceedings, to attempt to offer some instruction to Judges. But, lack of boldness never was a fault of mine, so here goes.
“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice and only justice you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deut. 16:18-20
“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him 40 times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.” Deut. 25:1-3
“So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?” I Kings 3:9
The question which I keep coming back to is: “Why do we have judges?”
It seems that this question determines so much about how, then, a Judge should function.
As a Christian, I believe that man is fallen — sinful; depraved; an animal capable of appearing to do good, but still an animal. Left to himself, with no restriction, man will destroy himself.
Hitler was not an aberration — we all carry that potential.
Thus, when we look at society, what we see is a very thin veneer over a boiling pot.
The Judge exists to try to keep the lid on the pot.
As a Christian, I also believe that there is a God Who created us; that He created us for relationship with Himself and with one another; that our choice of sin fractures both relationships; that for relationship to have a chance for restoration, there must be confrontation with truth, followed by a change of heart, from which will flow fruit, sometimes needing the assistance of others.
The Judge must operate his or her court in such a way as to maximize the potential for these things to take place.
In Judges 5:2, it says:
“When the leaders led in Israel, the people volunteered.”
The Judge is to be a leader — to the community as a whole, and to those who appear in court. In II Chron. 19:6, the King, upon appointing judges, said:
“Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord Who is with you when you render judgment.”
In vs. 10, he added:
“And whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in the cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them that they may not be guilty before the Lord, and that wrath may not come upon you and your brethren.”
I find these passages instructive.
First, there are truths. When Clarence Thomas, who once spoke about “natural law,” denied the concept in his confirmation hearings, he was changing from right to wrong. There are absolutes — we saw and recognized them in the Declaration of Independence, and crafted a form of government designed to safeguard to the extent possible. It is for these truths that the judge must stand in all that he or she says or does.
Second, the Judge is reminded that those who come to court are “brethren” — no matter how horrible their act, he and they are of the same cloth: sinners. I think this is important — that the Judge keep close in mind the fact that he is no different that those who appear before him — so that he will deal with them from a recognition of their dignity, with empathy, compassion, even grace.
Third, is the fact that if he fails to warn the people — people who come to court or members of the general public — calamity will befall, and he will suffer along with the rest. I believe that a major reason our nation is in the shape that it is is because judges have forgotten why they exist, they know not how to function to fulfill their existence, and they do not warn. We are seeing the natural consequences — chaos.
Having set forth the premise, let me address some particulars.
First, Eccl. 8:11 says:
“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed swiftly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”
This is true not only in the Criminal Court, but in the entire judicial system — Civil, Juvenile, or what ever.
Each day that goes by that I am not confronted with my sin leads to a further searing by me of my heart. When finally brought face to face with it, I will have so many defensive barriers in place that I will not accept the fact that I have done wrong. I will have others to blame; I will have excuses and justifications stored up within me.
Each day that goes by in which I do not have an opportunity to have my case heard will embitter me. By the time I receive a judgment, even if I win, I will be full of anger and bitterness — it cost me too much; it took too long; I didn’t get all that I should have gotten; the other still hasn’t said he was sorry.
We need to put speed back into the process.
Second, we need to teach people to not look for justice within the legal system — a matter of expectation — but to have a respect for the system. Justice, as I have said, has an internal, emotional, spiritual, relational component. The system can never deliver in this area. But the system can be designed and operated in such a fashion that it appears fair and is accepted as one of the better possible systems available to man throughout the world.
Third, I believe we should not have Referees, Hearing Officers, Magistrates, Commissioners, etc. The oversight of the legal system should be in the hands of the judges. It is the Judge who is to be responsible.
When I served as Judge, I found, once I got into my first Juvenile case, that I had to abolish the Juvenile Referee. It was not so much because of the job which he was doing, but it was the fact that I was responsible for the operation of the Juvenile Probation Department and the Juvenile Detention Center and could not fulfill my oversight if I did not know, personally, what was going on. I had powers of Contempt and Mandamus which the Referee did not have — and those powers were needed to secure for the clientele of the Court the promises of the law relative to services and facilities.
Fourth, I believe we need to abolish the total authority of the various regulatory agencies, in their decision making context, and restore a right to trial-de-novo in the normal Civil Court system. We have adopted a policy of expertise which is insidious.
Fifth, as strange as it sounds, we need the Judge to be visible — let the Judge mount the bench upon coming to work and not leave until the end of the day. Let the Judge leave with nothing “under advisement.” If there is research to be done, let the Judge enter a glass walled library, and there study in front of the people. In the courtroom, let every word be recorded — and maybe every action as well. It says to the people: “Justice is open-eyed; it does not sleep; it is working; it is available to all.”
Sixth, I believe we need to revise the understanding of the role of the Judge when one or more of the parties is not represented by a lawyer.
Part of my reason for this is that I believe lawyers have become technicians of the law, rather than counselors of people. As technicians, I feel the lawyer often cause more harm than good. And I believe that many, many, many of our cases can be dealt with without all of the complexity which lawyers add to the process.
We have been watching People’s Court for a number of years now. We have seen Judge Wapner do his thing towards establishing justice without attorneys. And we have liked what we have seen. Well, extending a little more control and power to the judges might bring more of this to pass.
I know that I found myself, when confronted with two parties and one lawyer, not becoming a lawyer for the unrepresented party but becoming a zealous advocate for the law and the fairness of the system.
I may not know all the particulars of what to do, but I do believe we need to give this a long, hard, look.
Seventh, Judges should:
(a) Visit any and all facilities where they may be sending people — prisons; mental health hospitals; juvenile homes; etc. The Judge will then be able to make a more intelligent choice, and may become a greater advocate for change within the community.
(2) Draw in “community” resources when ever possible — extended family; church; neighborhood; volunteer operated organizations; etc. People need assistance in changing, and the Proverb says: “Better the neighbor than the brother far away.”
Experts aren’t always needed — sometimes a close friend may serve very well (AA has used this idea throughout its history).
(c) Affirm, publicly and privately, those who labor in delivery of assistance — probation; social services; welfare; community mental health; schools; volunteers; etc. But also, privately and one-on-one, speak to them when they are failing.
I recall a conversation with a social worker after something horrible had happened. It happened because the worker was totally overloaded with cases and did not have time to fully investigate. I told her she was doing no one any favor be even trying. What was needed was for her to say, “my plate is full.” Then I would let “the people” know the system could not fulfill their expectations. I would mandate the needed funds for additional staff so the law which promised service would be upheld.
(d) This last comment leads to the next — the use of Contempt and Mandamus by the Court. Because judges will see the failures of the system, and because they will have live bodies in conflict and need before them, they can devise and order needed resources.
When the Indiana Boy’s School said they could not take a dangerous youth whom I had ordered there because they were full, I told them that was not my problem — take him or be held in Contempt of Court. I also told them I would join them in a petition to the people and to the legislature for increased budget.
As a Judge, I mandated funds for additional staff and equipment when it was needed to enhance the delivery of justice.
Let me now turn to some particulars within segments of the judicial system.
Speed, speed, speed — this is critical.
Confrontation — make the offender specify every thing he did — not the lawyer.
In-depth Pre-Sentence Investigation Reports — my PSI’s averaged 8 pages, single-spaced. legal length, with 2 or more added pages of mental health, educational and/or drug/alcohol evaluation. I felt that I needed to know as much about the person as I could. Because:
Sentences which represent Prescriptive Punishment — the question is whether the offender will accept the sentence as valid. They may not, but we need to make the effort. I often used a combination of: short term State incarceration (shock therapy!); followed by drug/alcohol in-patient treatment; followed by work-release (where we did more drug/alcohol treatment, did vocational and educational treatment, taught budget and other life-style skills, etc.); followed by probation which would include victim-offender reconciliation meetings, community service restitution, etc. And, yes, sometimes the only meaningful sentence would be: “Go serve in a State institution for the rest of your life, or until someone working with you there sees that you have got some understanding about truth and life. Then they can let you out.”
Address the parties at all times, not the lawyers. If the parties discover they can speak to one another in front of the Judge, and if the Judge helps them to “hear” each other, they might decide to seek outside help to heal the marriage. If all the talking is done by the lawyers, the parties will only get madder, for they have not been heard.
Sow seeds of peace when ever possible. Help each to hear the other, understand a bit of where the other is coming from, commend them for calmness, pleasantness, words of appreciation, etc.
Limit the matters over which they can fight. Have a support chart and stick with it. Have a visitation/temporary custody chart and stick with it. If custody is an issue, order evaluations and home studies of all except the children (keep the kids out of the middle of this until the last minute!). If they argue over property, order it sold at auction and let them bid against each other. What they agree to, approve. The less they fight one another, the more they may be able to hear one another.
Deny attorney fees when the actions of the attorney are interfering with peace — but warn the attorneys, in advance, that this is how you will be acting.
Maybe hold an evening session for divorcing couples in which you expound on the process vs hopes for reconciliation — and reasons why they should consider reconciliation. Have a list of resources available to them, including the church.
The Juvenile System.
First, it is for the Judge to set parameters upon which a Juvenile comes to court. We have all these experts and service agencies which exist and are self-perpetuating growth industries. Their inclination will be to keep the child from the hands of the Judge (where they might also be held accountable). When I said we were going to handle truancy cases, the Probation and Welfare Departments literally laughed and said it couldn’t be done. After I threatened to fire them all, they decided to give it a try. The results were unbelievable, and we all received a commendation from the schools.
Second, recognize that when ever a child, for what ever reason, is taken out of a home, you have just done the most traumatic thing possible in the life of that child and family. Therefore, all other business must be set aside to deal with this matter. Speed, speed, speed.
Third, involve all the people and agencies needed to be able to fully address all issues presented. If you are going to ask this child to be accountable, then the child needs to see these others also being asked to be accountable. My case that comes to mind was the truant. He was truant because he was not given bus transportation. He did not get to ride the bus because he was attending a “special” school. He was attending the special school because he was very disruptive in the normal school. He was disruptive because he had never had any help to deal with his 3-year-earlier-diagnosed- learning-disability — even though our State law mandated Special Education. The school needed to be held to account, and I did so.
Fourth, be cautious about blinding accepting, and then rubber stamping,
what ever the experts say. Do not check your common sense at the door. The 11 year old, with two arsons and a burglary, was diagnosed as suffering from post-divorce and post-remarriage syndrome — but my gut said, “nuts.” I then noticed the boy was looking at me from across the room with his head tilted. My middle son looked at me that way due to rotten eyes. We had the boy’s eyes tested, put on glasses, and never saw or heard from him again — the kid was blind and did not know how to tell anyone or how to deal with his problem!
Fifth, make sure the professionals providing services are communicating with one another. There is a very limited concept of confidentiality which should be recognized. I once discovered that there were 10 agencies involved in this one family — and none talked to the other. The amount of time being chewed up with the family running from place to place was enormous. I asked the agencies to each send a representative to Court so we could discuss this matter — they refused, saying confidentiality. I told them they would never get another referral, so they came. We pared the involvement down to 3 agencies (saving money in the process), and set forth communication links. And this became one of the few families which I saw restored to wholeness through Court involvement.
Sixth, we have tended to let the Juvenile System develop in a manner which allows the child to blame parents, school, community, others, for his or her own choices. We must never forget that we are volitional creatures; that God wrote on our hearts before we were born; that we are made in His image; that we know what we do, we choose to do it, and we know it to be wrong. Confrontation, prescriptive sentencing, and similar matters of the adult Criminal Court do belong in the Juvenile Court.
Seventh, never let a parent come to the door of the Court, thrust in the child, and say, “Give me back a good kid.” Grab the parent and bring them
inside as well.
Mental Health Commitments.
Very simply, either you become an expert on Mental Health Law and treatment, or get one or more attorneys to become such and appoint them to handle the Respondent. You are responsible for approving and ordering the basic form of treatment, because the law grants this person certain rights relative to treatment. It is up to you to see that the laws are enforced.
The doctor said, “Send this person to Logansport.” But I had been to Logansport, and knew little treatment took place there. The law said, “Such place, and such treatment, as offers a reasonable chance of habilitation.” When questioned in that manner, the doctor always admitted that Logansport would not do — only Reilly would. But Reilly would refuse to take the person because they had no room. I almost had to put the Superintendent in jail for Contempt before they relented.
Second, make the doctors come and testify in open court. Written reports allow no room for discussion. It is not just what is the diagnosis, but what are the symptoms, treatment options, etc. All of this is within your province.
The young lady came over-medicated to the point of being a zombie, and clutching a paper waiving the doctor’s presence, and agreeing to commitment in a state hospital. I sent her back, and informed the doctor that he would be in court the next day, or in jail. We found out that the girl — age 21 — was simply trying to cope with the fact that her father had gone sober and mother now had someone other than daughter to have a relationship with. The
doctor never saw it — but the Court did. Keep eyes and common sense open.
Well, you get the picture. I am suggesting a Judge who is radical, rocking sacred boats, and not winning friends — but, just maybe, influencing people to be better.
The trick, which I learned too late, is to do this with decorum, quietly, in private and in extensive sessions of open discussion so that hearts can be tested, people affirmed as good people trying to do thankless jobs.
Sure, all of this takes time and effort — but lives are at stake.
Sure, you may never see fruit — but truth will bring forth it’s fruit, in it’s season.
Oh, and make sure that you have some prayer warriors about you at all times — this is spiritual warfare in it’s strictest sense.
The Prosecutor, by whatever name, in any jurisdiction, is a part of a system of law and procedure which comes into play when someone violates a Criminal Law. A dictionary definition of prosecutes, in its simplest, is: “To follow up or pursue something so as to complete it.”
The question is: “What is this it being pursued?”
As we look at the criminal situation, we find a person who has, allegedly, violated a law of a Sovereign.
Thinking in Biblical terms, man violated (and continues violating) the laws of the Sovereign.
As we study the Bible, we see that the efforts of God are directed at two things: (1) bringing of the offender to repentance; and, (2) restoration of the relationships between the offender and Sovereign and people offended by the actions of the offender.
So, it should be the pursuit of the Prosecutor — to see people who violate the law come to own that violation through a change of heart and then, as fruit of that changed heart, move towards reconciliation with those offended. All of the acts of the Prosecutor should be designed to heighten the possibility of one or both results occurring.
Please note the Prosecutor can not, in any way, bring about either occurrence — they are matters which only the offender may do. The Prosecutor only helps establish an environment which heightens the possibilities.
So, what should the Prosecutor do?
First, all known offenses by the offender need to be formally charged. Having one or more “in the bag” as a club is not forcing the offender to deal with total reality.
I find offenders in denial — “I did not do the crime I was convicted of,” though they may have done 20 others. Or they may claim that they were coerced into pleading guilty because of the threat of other charges.
The issue is confrontation.
Second, plea bargains should be avoided except:
(1) When determined, following further investigation, that the facts do not fit the offense originally charged; then amend and charge the true offense. Do not do this as part of any agreement, however; do this because truth requires it.
(2) Dismissing one or more of multiple charges in return for a guilty plea should be only after receiving a written confession to all the offenses known to have been committed, and after an agreement that the Judge may take all such other charges into account at the time of sentencing.
(3) Don’t reduce a charge simply to get a guilty plea — something is not better than nothing, for in pleading to “something,” the offender will convince himself he was coerced, blackmailed, denied justice, etc. Thus he avoids facing truth.
Another matter I believe important for the Prosecutor is to, in whatever manner possible, bring the victim(s) into both the Criminal Law process and into the presence of the offender.
The former is so that they victim may see justice being done, and may
feel that they are of importance in this whole process.
I prefer the latter as a part of the sentencing process — that the offender be ordered to meet with those victims who are willing to meet with him (in the presence of trained “mediators”). However, that may not be possible. A second option is to have the victim in court at the time of guilty plea and/or sentencing, speaking (verbally or in writing) their thoughts relative to the impact of the crime on their life and relative to what might be a proper penalty.
And, in all instances, I would take the time to meet the victims before sentencing — explaining to them what I was going to seek by way of sentence and why — in the hope they might lessen their desire for vengeance and the spiritual damage of a desire for vengeance.
I suggest the Prosecutor see their role as one seeking to bring avenues of peace into the life of all involved. When thinking of “victims,” consider: family of the offender; immediate “community” of the offender (church; maybe employer; etc). All people impacted by crime — directly and indirectly — need the chance to deal with issues through forgiveness and confession.
Another matter important to me is that the Prosecutor do his homework as to what community options are available, and do his homework upon all facets of the offender. Then he may suggest to the court a “prescriptive sentence” — a sentence designed to enhance the potential for repentance, reformation and rehabilitation.
The sentence proposed should consider:
Treatment for disorders (education deficits, drug/ alcohol, job skill development, other life-skills development, etc);
Facing victims (let restitution be worked out in that setting rather than ordered directly by the judge);
Repaying, in part, society for harm to society (community service restitution); etc.
Then there is the matter of the guilty plea itself. The Prosecutor should do all possible to make sure that full and complete confession is made by the offender himself, and not by the attorney for the offender. This might be accomplished through placing the offender on the witness stand and then questioning him on all aspects of the offense. Or do it through a written confession, procured before the plea, orally affirmed at the time of the plea.
The Prosecutor also needs to be an advocate of the utmost speed in the process. At the time of first arraignment, for example, the Prosecutor might object to any continuance beyond one week, stating something like, “We have a written confession here, your Honor;” or, “This man was caught in the act, your Honor.” Similar statements might be made at all stages. For this to work, of course, the Prosecutor must be ready for trial at the earliest possible moment.
Another small factor is the way in which the Prosecutor speaks of and/or to the offender. We are commanded to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” So it should be in our official capacities. Derogatory remarks about an offender — to his face, to his attorney, or the media — is not in line with this admonition. There is not a one of us, in the eyes of God, different from the worst of the worst of the worst. Treating the offender as a human being — worthy of dignity, able to overcome, loved by God — offers another crack in the door for repentance.
Another warning I have for Prosecutors is to beware the capture of the system by “professional service providers.” Areas in which this takes place are: juvenile matters; civil mental health matters; domestic violence matters; and drug/ alcohol matters. It exists in a limited degree within the criminal law system.
The professional does the diagnosis, tells the treatment needed, provides the treatment, and gets the offender ordered to do the treatment. In the process, we often stop looking at the person as a unique person. There is little difference between this and the matter of mandatory sentencing imposed by legislators.
What the Prosecutor should do is be an advocate for a balanced form of punishment which, again, has a focus on the possibility of reconciliation of offender to victim, family, and society rather than some pat answers.
The Prosecutor should stand for the proposition that while circumstances of life may influence the choices we make, we make our choices of free will, knowing they are right or wrong, knowing there will be a price to pay. Once again, it is the effort to bring accountability and responsibility into the life of the offender (and, sometimes, society).
Often times, the Prosecutor’s office will be involved in juvenile matters.
While the entire developmental concept of the Juvenile Justice System has been to deal humanly with the youthful offender, we have, at the same time, stripped the system of any sense of “we are on serious business here.” We allowed the system to be permeated with a sense of others (mom, dad, society) being to blame. We often do not confront the offender with the fact that they chose to do what they did. This concept needs to be fought against by the Prosecutor.
And, when dealing with acts of delinquency, all the same rules apply to the youthful offender as to the adult as far as the Prosecutor is concerned — full confession to all crimes, extremely limited plea bargaining, speed of process, confrontation with victims, etc.
Two closing examples.
I know of a Prosecutor who has approved a Juvenile diversion program in which a juvenile, committing a crime, is removed from the system and moved into a volunteer operated system of face-to-face confrontation with victim(s). The only pre-requisite is that the juvenile be confessing of his offense.
Another person I know, who is now seeking the office of Prosecutor, wants to establish an entity — operated by volunteers — to which victims and/or offenders may go. This entity would then seek to bring into play various community resources. The idea is to “treat” the entire person. The first place which will be looked to for assistance will be the Church.
THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
“Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
“Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
“With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.” Eph. 6:10-20
Every thing which I have presented in this book has been done from the vantage point of what I believe the Bible clearly teaches. Now the battle ground will be within you, and within your clients.
And it is a spiritual battle that is actually involved.
It is a battle of: Will you decide to take a risk?
It is a battle of: Will your client take a risk?
Let’s look at this passage as we close our examination of the lawyer as minister.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” We have no strength in our own, no wisdom, no understanding. We are flesh. We can act only in and through His strength — which is as it should be: “For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.” II Cor. 4:7
“Our struggle is not against * * *.” Because it is not, and because only God and His Word and the Holy Spirit can ever win such battles, we may see ourselves as the sower of seeds, rather than the maker of change. Our function is to do, act, show, present, the Truth. It is God’s position to then take our offering and use it to make peace within the heart and mind of the client. Our battle will be to overcome our fears. The client’s battle will be to appropriate what we present.
I do what God asks of me without concern for whether it works in the client or not. That lessens my fear. My fear of trying these radical things is also lessened when I realize that fear is a demonstration of a lack of love — I Jn. 4:18. Since I am called to love, and since my love for others declares my love for God, I become more willing to speak truth in love to others.
“Having girded your loins with truth.” Do you know what is and what is not “truth?” The world offers no truths. The law — if we are honest about our profession — also knows and offers no truths. Only God offers truth, and we must be versed in it if we are to offer it to our clients.
“Put on the breastplate of righteousness.” David McKenna, in his book, The Whisper of His Grace, defined righteousness as: Being in right relationship with God; Being in right relationship with others; Being in right relationship with things; and, in all three instances: Being right; Doing right; and Helping to put right. Are you seeking after righteousness in your own life? Unless you are, you will be ill-equipped to present the call for righteousness to your clients.
“Be prepared with the Gospel of Peace.” Can you present to a client how Jesus Christ, and His ways, can bring them to peace with God, with the adversary in the conflict, with the conflict itself, and with themselves?
“Take up the shield of faith.” You will need faith as you seek to minister reconciliation to your clients. Faith as to financial survival; faith as to client rejection; faith as to others calling you a fool, or worse. Rest assured that Satan will attack you at every point you offer him entrance. Your personal weaknesses (and we all have them) must be brought under the Lord’s control, lest Satan use them as a foothold.
“With all prayer and petition.” I glibly slid over the matter of prayer with our clients, or for the adversary of the client, or for the Judge, on the first page of this book. But such prayers are required if we are to see the spiritual needs and truths which need to be addressed and ministered to. This is intercessory prayer — long, agonized, from the heart.
Once when I presented some thoughts on the lawyer as minister, someone asked, “Then how many clients can I reasonably have?” Before I could even think of a response, a young lady, new to the practice but on fire for the Lord, called out: “Not one more than you can effectively pray for!” She had it right.
“And pray on my behalf.” Do you have people praying for you, interceding for you? If not, get them! You need the very boldness that Paul was asking for in verses 19-20 — and he knew that he needed the saints praying for him if he were to have that boldness. Share with some people the nature of the work that you are doing, and ask them to pray daily for you.
Yes, my friends, it is a spiritual war that we are involved in — and thus I pray that you have found this booklet both challenging and rewarding.
May the Lord use your reading of it for His glory.
THE LAWYER AS MINISTER (Rev.)
Copyright, June, 1995
[Mr. Bontrager is available for speaking, teaching, and technical assistance to churches, Christian colleges, ministries and businesses on resolving conflict Biblically.
In addition to this booklet, he has produced a manuscript entitled, In Search of Justice, which combines his personal testimony with an exposition of what the Bible has to say about conflict — how we are to deal with conflict, how we are to help others whom we see in conflict, and the role of the Church in conflict resolution.
He has also written a manuscript, Restorative Justice: A Primer, an overview of the American law and legal system, with a comparison to the principles of law and process set forth in the Bible.]