Friday, January 19, 2018

Pastor asks: “Can You Be a Christian and a Divorce Lawyer?”

November 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

Dear Dr. Moore,

I’ve heard you say before that a pastor’s calling is to shape the  consciences of God’s people toward conformity to Christ through the faithful  preaching of the Word, and that this informs their callings in the everyday  world. I agree. But here’s my problem.

I have a church member, a devoted Christian, who is an attorney  specializing in divorce cases. Our church believes that divorce is (in almost  every case) sin. If so, isn’t he empowering sin? Should I counsel him to follow  Christ by walking away from this job and to do something else? If he won’t,  should we discipline him?

Yours, Divorce Lawyer’s Pastor

Dear Pastor,

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, you know. If you have a song bubbling up in  your head right now, you probably grew up in an evangelical Sunday School  somewhere. Even if not, you know the story, and I think it’s applicable here.

There is not much commendable about Zacchaeus’ occupation. He was a shill for  the Roman occupation, in a role that was virtually always corrupt, defrauding  oppressed people of money with the implicit threat of Caesar’s sword hanging  over their heads.

When he came to know Christ, the Bible does not tell us that Jesus required  that he abandon his occupation. Rather, the Spirit radically altered the nature  of that occupation. He walked away from fraud and abuse, and made restitution to  those he had sinned against (Lk. 19:1-11).

There are some jobs, of course, that no Christian can hold. One cannot be a  Christian temple prostitute in Corinth or a Christian porn star in Los Angeles.  Jesus died for temple prostitutes and porn stars, and invites them into his  life, but following him will mean walking away from jobs that are inherently  sinful.

That’s not necessarily the case here.

In a fallen world, do we need divorce lawyers? I would argue, yes. Our  divorce laws, as they currently stand, are often unjust, but think of the lack  of justice if we had no divorce laws at all. Men would still leave their wives  (and vice-versa), take up with other people, and leave wreckage behind. Just  divorce laws seek to minimize harm to the innocent.

Divorce proceedings then decide child custody and financial arrangements. A  divorce lawyer working to see that an innocent woman is not left destitute by  her abandoning husband is working for justice. A divorce lawyer who is working  to prevent a sexually abusive spouse from gaining custody of a child can be  working for justice.

I would look at precisely what kind of divorce lawyer this Christian is. If  he is an “ABC easy divorce for $125″ advertisement sort of lawyer, who is  seeking to entice people into divorcing for his financial gain, then, yes,  that’s unjust and outside of what it means to follow Christ. But I wouldn’t  assume that’s the case.

It could be that this attorney has been given a ministry to wrecked families.  In some cases, he can use his influence to try to keep families together, and to  work toward some sort of mediation that could lead to reconciliation. In others,  he could be a voice that seeks to shield innocent parties from being financially  destroyed by predatory spouses and parents. And, after making sure that  everything is done in accordance with the law and the principles of justice, he  could try to help people see the hope of a new life on the other side.

God hates divorce. Divorce is always the result of someone’s sin and  rebellion. But often, as the Scripture itself tells us, there are those who  experience divorce as victims, not as perpetrators. These people have a divorce  foisted upon them, and they need protection. That’s love of neighbor.

This takes a strong Christian, with a sensitive conscience. If he starts to  see divorce as a commodity through which he can make money, he should walk away.  If he uses the law to deprive justice for the weak and vulnerable, he should  repent. But if he can see himself as standing for justice in a fallen world, and  lives accordingly, there is no reason for him to abandon his sphere of influence  to the conscienceless.

And, of course, he is waiting, like Zacchaeus and all of us, for a new  creation in which our vocations really take off. There will be no divorce law  practices in the New Jerusalem, but, then again, there won’t be any need for  ethics Q&A columns either.


Adapted from Russell D. Moore’s weblog at Dr.  Russell D. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President  for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in  Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist  Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Dr.  Moore is the author of The Kingdom of Christ and Adopted for  Life.


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