Being a Christian Lawyer is Possible, But Not Easy – I Peter 5:5-6

The words of this title are in bold on the back cover of a 2007 book by Michael P. Schutt. I agree with them. Do you? I’ve often referred to CTLA as “a support network for those who are swimming upstream.” On the front cover, the title is Redeeming Law, and the subtitle, Christian Calling and the Legal Profession. Michael is associate professor of law at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and director of the Institute for Christian Legal Studies. I’ve met him at the Christian Legal Society (CLS) annual conferences where he is often a humorous, but efficient moderator. CLS likes this book so much that they gave every member a copy in September 2007 and offered to replace it if each member would give it away to a potential CLS member, lawyer or law student, along with a discounted membership offer.

Why do I mention this book? Because I want to recommend it. I even agree with one reviewer who said it is “a must-read if you’re serious about reflecting on what it means to be a Christian lawyer.” Whether you are a senior partner at a firm or a beginning law student, it will bless you, and challenge you. It is a clear call for integrity in the legal profession, but it also offers very practical guidance.

Especially challenging, I think, is Schutt’s chapter 11 on lawyers’ vices and virtues. He observes, “Power, in perspective and in the proper hands, can create, encourage and build. Yet the love of power is the root of pride, and pride in turn leads to an improper desire for power. This relationship between power and pride is the stuff of legend and provides some telling insights into the lawyer’s struggles.” Later, he quotes John Milton’s Paradise Lost where Satan said, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” We’d like to think no one could even come close to that kind of power-mongering, but we’ve all met a few. Could we be included?

Schutt adds, “Surely pride, the greatest of all the deadly sins, is the professional sin of lawyers. ‘There can be only one Number One,’ says Kreeft [Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 1992]. ‘Pride is essentially competitive.’ So too are lawyers. Of all the characteristics in all the literature on the trouble with the profession — whether it be money, dissatisfaction with work, too many hours worked, depression, drug addiction, or the like — vying for the top lawyer attribute is competitive. Of course, neither competition nor love of it is sin. But pride fuels competition, and an unchecked spirit of competition will most certainly lead to pride.”

I recognize many of these thoughts from C. S. Lewis in “The Great Sin” chapter in his marvelous book Mere Christianity (another essential read in my opinion), but, of course, they eventually find roots in the Bible. You can find the emphasis throughout God’s Word, but Jesus said it most powerfully. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, 18:14) Peter captured it well in I Peter 5:5-6, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” Possible? Yes, but not easy!

Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey.  All rights reserved.

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