Biblical Standard for Christian Attorneys

Hello everyone!

As a soon to-to-be law student, I am wrestling through what a God honoring attorney would and should look like. I’ve had many chuckle at the idea, especially at the idea of being a prosecutor who honors Jesus in the workplace, and even suggestions that being a prosecutor and a Jesus follower are mutually exclusive. However, I find this rather disagreeable as Christians are called to stand for justice.

Yet at the same time, I am struggling with the nature of being a prosecutor and its compatibility with the heart of Jesus. Throughout the New Testament, there are calls to revere Jesus as the ultimate judge who will execute justice for all, in total when he returns. There are also explicit commands that instruct us not to pass judgement.

While I whole-heartedly believe and rejoice in this, is not our duty as Christ followers to be active in seeing the Kingdom of Heaven realized on earth? As such, justice is an inherent component of the Kingdom. My question, then, is that of perspective; is it my place, or any other person’s for that matter, to put themselves in the position of going after someone in the wrong and fighting for their punishment and an earthly execution of justice?

Or, could being a prosecutor be a God-honoring position? Could it really, have everything to do with perspective and attitude? When I imagine myself prosecuting a case of child trafficking for instance, I find no pleasure in sentencing the perpetrator to 30+ years in prison as he is a fellow human being and clearly held captive by sin. Yet at the same time, would it not be wrong to be complacent in not fighting for the destruction of an insidious criminal system?

In any case, win or lose, is a knowledge and a conviction that Jesus is the ultimate judge who will carry out justice in the end as well as a commitment to maintaining a heart for the one being accused an acceptable attitude going forward as a prosecutor?
Is pursuing a career as a criminal prosecutor setting oneself up for a displeasing life in the eyes of God?

Would appreciate takes!

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I think @Keldon_Scott would be a good resource to give you some direction and the benefit of experience on the subject of being at attorney.

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WHAT a question! Allow me to toss my 2c into the ring. Disclosure: I am an attorney, practicing now for 7.5 years. ~6 years in a law firm, and now 1.5 years having gone “in-house.”

The first thing I’d throw out there is to remember that Jesus is very much like our attorney! We stand judged guilty as sinners before God, and Jesus stands before the Judge of Judges, and provides the ultimate affirmative defense: our faith in his saving grace. SO, know that you walk in mighty footsteps! :slight_smile:

That said, I ran into a conundrum about the time I was finding my faith, and working as a 2nd year attorney. I represented a financial firm that had their email hacked. The hackers used someone they had also successfully convinced to work with them (having “phished” him) and used his bank account as a way-station in a scheme to steal money from the firm. We represented the firm, and I interacted with this duped-intermediary on a regular basis (he would, inappropriately, call me directly). He was a christian, and recognized too-late his unwitting role in the scheme. However, my client was out nearly $50k, and wanted to get it from someone, and they were beginning to realize the money was gone into the dark web.

I had a REALLY hard time figuring out how to be a christian attorney on that one. On one hand, I had a duty to represent my client, to get them whole, and to (to an extent) do their bidding in that regard. And while this duped-intermediary was also a victim, he also played a vital role in the money being taken from my client. I WANTED Him to go free, I WANTED My client to realize that this guy was not the one who needed to pay a pound of flesh. In the end they agreed (and we helped them seek restitution from their insurance company). But through out the process, it was hard, when this poor guy was calling, to remember that he was the ‘opposition’ in the matter.

This is not dissimilar to being a prosecutor. First, remember that the laws of men are for judging men by men’s standards. Not God’s. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…” after all. Thus, when you prosecute under the laws of men, you are not “judging” them under God. (Also, I would disagree with your application of the prohibition on judgment, as it leaves out the following verses, but that’s a different post)

But the question is NEVER what your client or what the opponent has done. The question is how YOU go about YOUR job. Will other attorneys know YOU are a Christ follower by your work, your ethic, and your morals? Will the sentenced man respect your work becuase you did so in an honest way? Will your colleages recognize in you the spirit of grace?

The rules of ethics, which you will learn, are a STARTING POINT, remember. If you prosecute, prosecute fairly, seeking justice for the harmed, and restitution for those who have been taken from. They often cannot afford their own attorneys for civil suits, remember!!! BUT, you can absolutely do so in a way that honors Christ. If the laws of man call for a child traffiker to be sentenced to life in jail, that is NOT a condemnation under God’s laws. It is under man’s. What the condemned does with his life is on him, not you, and he knew the potential consequences. BUT you can prosecute that person according to what you can legitimately prove. No more. Don’t be that prosecutor that shoots for over the top sentences to make a name for themselves. Honest, useful plea bargains can be meaningful tools to fulfill the requirements of human laws, but also show the grace of Christ. Be honest in front of the judge and your opposition, and be realistic with the DAs about what you think you can do.

Bottom line, be a Christian who is an attorney, not an attorney who is a Christian.

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That said, good luck in law school! If you want any tips or tricks, feel free to PM me!

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Hey @megrey! My best to you in your quest for the J.D. Wrestle no longer. :slight_smile: Your question and wrestling is so good. I have linked my testimony so you might have a flavor of how I wrestled it out. Testimony - Kel -- A divorce lawyer in marriage ministry?.

But, to answer some direct questions you posed – I would say: live your life and continue living the way you say you believe through every challenge. There will be times that you wonder . . . I have times that I don’t think justice is being done and wonder what I could or should do – I cast my care on him (1 Peter 5:7). I have times that I get anxious even still – am I promoting divorce by being a divorce attorney? I review Philippians 4:6 and rely on 4:8 – I offer my education, experience, and care to the the process whether counseling or litigating. I seek equity for my clients to the best of my ability, while showing my client, opposing counsel and their client, as well as the judge/court personnel that I do live the way I say i believe. The spirit will guide. Reach out to me at any time during your studies or practice once you are there – my best to you. My God grant you the patience to address study and practice and discernment in the decisions that need to be made along the way. Thanks for reaching out.

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Hey @megrey, very interesting question! And one that touches on themes that transcend the legal profession into many other areas of life, I might add. While I’m not a lawyer, there are a few things that come to mind when I read your question.

You point out that it is our calling in Christ to mimic Christ, to forgive (i.e. to not judge or condemn), but I’d respond that judgment is not the same thing as justice. The world that God created runs on cause and effect. If you do X action, you can expect Y consequences. While Christ was sent to give this sinful world a way out of Y consequences, He did not “force” that way out on anybody. Even after His coming, the X of sin still inevitably leads to Y.

Similarly, one would expect the X of criminality to lead to the Y of conviction and sentencing. It’s alright to feel a sense of loss for the defendant found guilty. Remember, God Himself is not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL should come to repentance. And yet, perish they do.

Also remember that God doesn’t forgive sinners “for free”. Just because we receive no sentence for our conviction doesn’t mean that there is no sentence passed. There is. God still renders righteous judgment, in full, without lenience – and Christ, Judge of the world, extends mercy by paying for it Himself.

Going forward, it may help you to remember that this present world is a temporary one, so no matter what consequences a criminal might bring upon himself, his end state is ultimately OUT of the judge’s hands, because no matter how harsh his sentence ultimately is, it will eventually come to an end and be replaced with true, everlasting justice, and hopefully, everlasting mercy.

Side note – I’m not sure if that’s your actual name or a tribute to a particular TV show, but I’m sure my wife would find it interesting :smiley:

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