Can Christian Lawyers Change the Culture? – by Hugh Whelchel and David Nammo
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
– Matthew 5:13 (NIV)
Hollywood’s representation of lawyers is all over the map, from iconic characters like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, to the lawyer in Chicago, Jim Carey in Liar Liar, My Cousin Vinny, Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, and Legally Blonde.
Despite Hollywood, the proliferation of lawyer jokes, and a general negative impression of lawyers, most Christian lawyers are guided by principles and want to do what is best for their clients and hopefully glorify God in the process.
But can we, despite our small numbers, make a difference in the legal culture or the culture at large?
Social psychology researchers talk about something they call “minority influence.” This is the idea that a small percentage of a population, usually in the single digits, can still have a major influence on the culture of the larger group.
This is what the New Testament calls being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
If it seems like this idea is lost in the church today, it hasn’t always been this way. For the first nineteen centuries of the church’s existence, a small minority demonstrated a huge, positive influence on the larger culture.
Alvin Schmidt, a professor of sociology, assembles evidence in his book, How Christianity Changed the World, showing the powerful influence Christianity has had on Western Civilization. In every area, whether law or government or economics or the fine arts or the sciences or education or healthcare, the Christian faith has contributed enormously to the flourishing of mankind.
Yet Christians have lost this idea of influencing the world around us in the last 100 years. Instead of being known for what it’s for, the church is more known for what it is against. We need to relearn how to do our jobs in a way that exerts a positive influence on our culture.
T.M. Moore writes on Breakpoint:
So no matter what your job, or whatever your work might be, God intends that you should devote your labors to something greater than personal interest, economic prosperity, or social good, alone. God intends your work to contribute to the restoration of the creation, and the people in it, to raising life on this blue planet to higher states of beauty, goodness, and truth, reflecting the glory of God in our midst.
While Hollywood will probably continue to mis-characterize lawyers, if even a few Christians took seriously their call to be salt and light in the legal profession, they could make a huge difference in our culture.
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CLS is collaborating with the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics to provide first-class devotionals for CLS members twice a month. We have adapted Hugh’s blog post, Can Christians in Business Transform Our Culture, into a devotional for lawyers this month. Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.