Sharon Hofisi Legal Letters
There are several theories and explanations on what constitutes a human being: evolution, creation, procreation and re-incarnation. Ceteris paribus, creationist viewpoints show that Jesus became some advocate for the God of the Bible. He is the chief proponent of divine law and his earthly life provides the believer with some important rules and laws on the nature of the divine legal system.
Enter Christmas and misconceptions around it! Year in year out, 25 December is celebrated the world over as the day when Jesus was born. Whether we look at it biblically, religiously or in creedal fashion, unless we are unbelieving (I have belaboured myself with this for long to no avail.
My thoughts criss-crossed from crest to trough on how I can believe something which I did not know) or belong to some movements that follow Arianism, we all like Jesus, don’t we?
It is now set that Jesus Christ was born of a woman and was, as the result follows the cause, referred to as the “Son of Mary” or the “son of a carpenter”.
Forget whether Jesus was born on December 25 or in July, Jesus obeyed his earthly parents because he wanted to show humans how an obedient divine lawyer would through humanity, open a legal door for any human’s communion with his divine Father.
Prayer for Jesus was not simply talking to God, but a simple conversation with God. Like a lawyer making a prayer to the judge or magistrate in terms of a drafted court order, Jesus would use prayer to either miraculously feed the crowds or to raise people from the dead.
Now that we know a lot about what the Bible and world religions teach about Jesus, how might creedal teachings help us to understand Jesus’ humanity and divinity? From what less helpful sources do we try to understand the salvific roles of Christ? Arianism is doubtlessly one of the starting points.
It represents the heretical teachings of a presiding priest of the Baucalis church. Arius taught that since Christ was the “begotten” Son of God, He must have been a created being.
To him, the logical corollary of Jesus’ creation was that he had a beginning and was not coequal or eternal with God the Father. For Arius and his supporters, Christ is neither fully human nor divine. Although Arius’ teachings were condemned as heresy at the Council of Nicea in 325AD, they still appeal to movements such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who regard Jesus as a created being, particularly synonymous with Michael the angelic fighter.
But most Christians use the Apostolic Creed, whose textusreceptus shows an individual’s “belief in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried, descended into hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, thence He will come to judge the living and the dead”.
Biblically, both the birth and death of Jesus are imbued with legal significance, albeit in a spiritual dimension. The birth of Jesus through a woman made him the prophetic “seed of woman” who was to crush the “head of the ancient serpent” the devil.
Legally, Jesus became the last and not second Adam so that he would free men from the terrible effects of sin. He was born into this world to save it and will come back to the world to judge it. In between his resurrection and second coming, Jesus is playing the role of an attorney who saves the believer from the jaws of eternal death in hell.
While the fall of Adam and all mortals created a chasm between humans and God, the birth of Christ freed humans from sin and reunited them with God. For many in Christianity, the annual Christmas holiday is freely observed as more than a holiday because it is part of the rules of the Christian faith which place importance on the believer’s need to celebrate the salvific character of Jesus.
They locate Christmas within the three-tier philosophical system under domestic law which has: divine law, civil law and the law of reputation or opinion. They choose to focus on divine law which concerns the relevance of biblical teachings and biblically-related creeds on the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Apart from being duty-bound to respect national legal systems, they know that the heavenly legal system is not easily understood the world over. World religions such as African Traditional Religion, Islam, Taoism, Shintoism, Judaism, and so on have different understandings of what constitute the divine. All this is simplified in two words: contextualised belief-system.
It is noted here that Christians or religions which do not celebrate Christmas argue that Jesus was not born on 25 December. Their arguments range from considerations such as the different calendars used in Jesus’ and modern times; climatic conditions in the Middle East and different parts of the world; as well as the divine nature of Jesus.
I am not going to go into detail on the several reasons for not observing Christmas. For long, I also did not understand the humanity-divinity dichotomy, even to the point of choosing between atheism and mere unbelief. My question was simply that: Is there some momentum flux which makes people Christians or love Jesus? Later, I knew that Jesus Christ is the greatest lawyer for mankind because he relates to me in a personal way.
Even when I gleaned through the preamble to the Zimbabwean Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, I noticed that there is a national belief in the Almighty and freedom of religion. If Christianity is considered in this normative matrix,there is nothing amiss in studying Church creeds or rules of faith from a Christocentric perspective.
The good sense of celebrating Christmas as one Christocentric events is chiefly and legally discernible in salvific terms. Mankind had been condemned into sin when he decided to disobey his maker by eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge between good and evil. The birth of Jesus marked the beginning of the human understanding into the redemptive power of Christ — to take men to the tree of life.
At Jesus’ birth, the Magi brought significant gifts which spoke to various salvific roles of Christ — his death represented by myrrh showing the zenith of divine redemption when Jesus would destroy the power of sin over humans. Lawyer Jesus had to be born of a woman, grow in the love and favour both men and God and then die as the “redeemer who lives” — pointing to his resurrection.
As we read through the Bible, we will quickly note Jesus’ legal roles in a special way. The first man, Adam, had opened the legal doors for sin when he disobeyed God by eating the fruits of the tree of conscience (some interpret this literally while others point to an illicit affair between Eve and the Snake). Death became God’s form of punishment that was imposed on humans.
Through universal retribution, Eden of innocence was lost. Humans became terrified by their conscience and were automatically born into the cradle of sin. Biblically, Jesus became the last Adam who graciously freed the whole of mankind from the ruinous power of sin. Legally, he is not presented as a second Adam, which would create the need for some Saviour to come.
At law in different juridical systems, several models of criminal punishment such as retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence and humanitarian are used by lawyers to implore the Courts to impose lenient sentences on their clients.
Before Christ’s birth, the divine legal system was understood using miniature events in religions such as Judaism where retribution was expressed in phrases such as “eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth”. In simple terms, tit invited tat and tit for tat became a fair game. Jesus was not received by his own people and Jews still await a political Messiah. The Apostle John, however, records that those who receive Jesus are given the power to become children of God.
Apostle Paul, a systematic letter writer showed takes us in Romans through five stages in salvific grace. Those who Christ foreknew were also predestined, called, justified and glorified. Jesus is a superhuman lawyer. Paul captures this idea in Galatians when he states that: ‘I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were by the law, then Christ died to no purpose’. Essentially, Christ can do the above because he is the image of the invisible God. As a divine lawyer, he is the perfect representation of God. God instructed him to redeem mankind and he accomplished this duty with perfect zeal and knowledge.
Lawyers know that criminal punishment serves as a deterrent measure for would-be offenders. Biblical teachings deter believers from lawless behaviour, albeit understood from different doctrinal levels: mainline, apostolic, Pentecostal, Zionist, charismatic or catholic. Jesus’ ecclesiological teaching on Lazarus and the rich man Divas shows how expiation or penitence can urge the believer to obey rules on charity and to choose between two ways: either eternal doom in hell or eternal life in paradise.
Further, punishment may be meant to compensate or restitute the victim.
Salvific grace changes everything. The Greeks used the word long before it was used in Christian circles to mean unmerited favour. To them, grace simply meant something that by its attractiveness delights. It was also a kindly disposition that expressed itself in beautiful ways.
The beauty of freedom in Christ is that it is satisfying, personal and eclipses all forms of human freedom. It is incorruptible and cannot be purchased through nepotism, graft, fraud, guile, or fetishism. In courts of law, lawyers strongly implore judges and magistrates to award compensation to their clients. Similarly, there is no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. They have sufficiency in Christ according to his riches and steadfast love.
Further, lawyers know different ways of freeing their clients. Sometimes negotiation for pretrial release is urgently needed to protect the liberty of the client. Jesus knew the art of negotiation in a legal way. He warned those being taken to court to negotiate with their accusers lest they will be thrown behind bars due to overwhelming evidence. Those who negotiate for out of court settlement in modern ways are no different from the submissive form of negotiation proposed by Jesus.
Even those who use aggressive negotiation skills are no different from Jesus. Jesus would give talents to three people-one, two, and five inputs. He expects two, four and ten yields. The one who did not invest in making profits because the lender is cruel and reaps where he hasn’t sown was punished because he received the inputs, went and buried them, yet he never attempted to engage investment houses and banks with the view to making profits for the lender. No wonder Jesus had to take the inputs and give them to he would had plenty.
Today, aggressive negotiation is used in legal circles. People can feign anger at a traditional court, arbitration tribunal or magistrate court. Lawsuit becomes a pig where, through pretrial negotiation, a litigant may come out thin or fat.
A lawyer prepares his or her client for court. Those who believe in the Great White Throne envisaged in the Bible know that earthly life is not only a journey towards death, but death is a journey towards eternal life or eternal doom. Christ who became the seed (not seeds) of the woman prophetically proclaimed in Genesis 3:15 will be their advocate when the accuser of Brethren (the devil) would try to move God to sentence believers into life in hell. Jesus paid the debt for sin in full. He cried ‘it is finished’ because he had paid for a debt of sins which humans had owned for ages.
A lawyer must perform duties to the court and to his client. Sometimes lawyers read court papers and attack the paucity of evidence. They can except to the charges or demand that the matter be dismissed for want of evidence. To save mankind, Jesus had to come in human form. He tasted human weaknesses and became a personal savior for all those who do not want to perish in eternal doom.
Several biblical events and teachings attest to his salvific duty. A public sinner like Mathew became a disciple; the big fisherman like Peter realised how Jesus had to “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, oh Lord” and a trained legal zealot like Paul had to stop kicking the sharpest part of the sword to follow a divine lawyer.
Doctrinaire worshippers like the Pharisee were reprimanded while repentant people like the sinful taxman were venerated. Using the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, the aptitude of a believer was shown in a special way. The believer has to accept that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour.
Jesus is a lawyer at the believer’s door. He awaits invitation to represent the believer in his tripartite being of soul, spirit and flesh. John, whose eyes were brutally impaired during the time of persecution showed us in the Book of Revelations that, dining with Jesus produces a pleasant union in the individual’s normal daily life in that all legal doors for sin and oppression are closed.
Elsewhere, Jesus either corrected the attitudes of several lawyers, or reformed established laws. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a young Prince was taught that divine law is not in hidden, but plainly shown in racial barriers such a between Jew and Samaritan. The Priest and the Levite were stopped from being engrossed in ritualism. The Holy Spirit is shown as the inn keeper and Jesus becomes the Samaritan who paid all the debts of the robbed man.
In reforming the Jewish law, Jesus showed that his intended goal was to perfect it. Using teachings of prophets like Daniel, the unaltered divine law had to be changed by the unaltered divine law. To borrow from Zimbabwean law, the ordinary law is altered by the extraordinary law in the Constitution. The law in ordinary statutes must be aligned with the Constitution. Similarly, Jesus, without sin, had to alter the law of sin.
Did you not read the story of the adulteress woman? Twice Jesus wrote something on the ground because twice Moses had been given the law. Moses, a type of Christ as shown in Deuteronomy 18 v 18, broke the legal tablet and had to be given another tablet with the Decalogue. When the witnesses, prosecutors, and judges caught the sinful woman red-handed, Jesus reformed the law on adultery to “he without sin” must cast the first stone. Interpretatively, he did not say “sins”, but sin. In simple terms, he wrote to the accusers that “he who has never committed the sin of adultery must cast the first stone”. Everyone was forced into self-condemnation.
Jesus adopted the humanitarian theory of punishment. The woman was freed on humanitarian grounds. Death through stoning was not in proportional to her sin. If she was caught red-handed, the principle of distinction was unjustly applied. We do not hear that the man she was committing adultery with was to be stoned. Interestingly, his own “mother” would have been condemned with the same death had it not been for the righteousness of Joseph and angelic theophany which convinced Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was fully divine.
Basically, Christmas teaches us that a Christ’s journey from eternity, more often than not, is filled with important events and creeds that created a case for a spiritual Messiah who would give the Christian some BIBLE or basic instructions before leaving earth. The Bible is the believer’s defence manual which contains teachings on freedom in Christ.
Sharon Hofisi is a lawyer and read theology. He also holds a Diploma in Christian Studies and Religious Leadership.