Pastoral Perspectives

Someone better than a Queen’s Counsel

Recently, the High Court dismissed an application by City Harvest Church member Chew Eng Han to engage a Queen’s Counsel (QC) from the UK to defend him. He is one of six church leaders accused of committing a criminal breach of trust.

Although Chew has since employed a Senior Counsel, he had earlier explained to the judge that he could not find one with the appropriate expertise to assist him. However, the High Court Judge VK Rajah had a different opinion on Chew’s claims. Justice Rajah noted that the legal and factual issues of the case are not complex and do not involve novel points of law that cannot be managed by a competent local counsel.

Admittedly, I am rather curious why out of the six defendants, it is only Chew who sought to apply for the help of a QC. I guess it is understandable that when you are hoping to be vindicated and fighting for your life, you will naturally look for the best to help you. However, I cannot help but wonder if God ever intended justice to be mete out in this manner, where only those who can afford such “high-end” legal services appears to have a higher chance of being acquitted.

In the Bible, we learn that God who is just, commands His people to ensure that justice is properly upheld. The leaders of Israel must not be partial towards the rich or the poor during a lawsuit (Ex 23:1-8).  And as we reflect upon our sins and failings during this season of Lent, let us be thankful that God shows no partiality. Before a holy and righteous Judge, we all stand guilty as charged. And yet, because of Christ, we are all equally loved as well. Indeed, the way God’s justice is meted out has nothing to do with our ability to employ someone to explain our motives or justify our actions. Neither is it about relying on an Advocate to appeal to some clauses in the law to show us clemency.

The Gospel is good news because in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who has provided the means to ensure that justice is meted out and that the penalty for our transgressions has been fully paid for. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). One Christian writer, Doug Wilson vividly puts it this way, “A guilty man was dragged into court, as ashamed as a man could possibly be, and it all ended with the prosecutor being dragged out of the courtroom and summarily hanged. And after that, the judge came back from the dead”.

In contrast to human laws, God’s law is perfect. It would be foolishness and arrogance for any of us to think that we can measure up to it based on our own merit or accord. Although we recognise that there are non-Christians who live far better and moral lives than many professing Christians, it is not judgmental to say that the former are not saved unless they have turned to Christ. In Acts, we learn that even Cornelius, who was a morally upright and generous man still needed to hear the Gospel and be converted so that he and his household  can be saved and receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 11:14).

Unfortunately, there are often times when the world and even some Christians confuse the issues. They would prefer to have a God who justifies their sins rather than a Heavenly Father who graciously forgives sins. Some are also reluctant to submit to the authority of God’s Word to instruct them on what is good, pleasing before God and beneficial to human flourishing.

Instead, in a veiled attempt to validate their preference and ease their conscience, they even claim the moral high ground and appeal to supposedly scientific explanations, cultural evolution and personal autonomy as their basis. Thus, for example, supporting same-sex marriages is lauded as being tolerant and celebrating diversity.

While not every sin is a crime as seen in how no penalties are imposed against pride or covetousness, it is interesting to note that people are increasingly turning to the Court of law to determine legality of their actions and to redefine what is acceptable in society. But this is hardly surprising. After all, if one is not rejoicing in God’s grace and believing in the glorious and liberating truth concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who else can one rely on to possibly help plead their case? But then again, when it is time for one to stand before the throne of God, having a QC will barely make a difference.

Pastor Edwin Wong

March 17, 2013