Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So, David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah. But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’” So, Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away[a] before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
1. Whether David would have a defence in law if he had to fall into the hands of God.
2. Whether human judgments and courts are more lenient than the judgment of God.
Law, whether moral, divine, canonical or legal, hinges on intent (intention). When an act is committed or omitted that is wrong (blameworthy or offensive) against God or men or governments, it is the degree of wrong or blameworthy intent that determines its type, character and the degree of punishment one receives. Usually, the more intentional the wrong, the more punishment it receives. Accidental wrongs (or negligence) and mistakes may receive less punishment because their degree of blameworthiness is low.
In human societies, there is not wrong that is punished for merely intending to do it. In other words, human beings have no offence punishable for intention alone. In some instances, intent is even disregarded and only an act is punished. In human parlance, the following are the degrees of blameworthiness (from more intentional to no intention at all) that are punished:
Yes – 100%
Yes – 100%
2. Civil Wrong (Tort)
Yes – at least 51%
3. Strict Liability
Yes – some intent
Yes – mostly action
4. Absolute Liability
No – Zero intent
Yes – 100%
5. Sin (divine)
Yes – 100%
Yes or No – 0% - 100%
To illustrate the table. Human courts and judgments have never punished one’s thoughts (intent) anywhere in the world. There is no crime or offence with thoughts only. You can think of killing someone, of doing all kinds of evil, and as long as it only remains a thought, no human penal or corrective system will penalize you. As Dr. Hamalengwa has already written, “Thoughts are free.” All human offences require some level of action, even crimes which require a requisite mens rea must be accompanied by acts (actus reus) as we saw in our last discourse. Although some offences, such as Absolute Liability, may be punished purely on actions (what the state of mind was does not matter), no offence can be punished with only thinking. It is reasonable to suggest that humans decided to leave it there for three limitations:
First, all humans will be implicated, the judge and the accused. While a judge may not have their case heard, however, they would be as culpable because they would also be guilty of evil thoughts.
Second, it is self-justification. Humans know that to punish thoughts would be an injustice – because all humans justify their behavior on what can be seen or proved, not what is latent or hidden – thoughts. Hitherto, there is no barometer that can measure what each person’s thoughts are at any particular moment in time.
And last, it would be impractical to measure thoughts, and even to prove them. Punishing thoughts only would delve into extremes – at one end of the continuum, there would be those who would be acquitted for the bad thoughts they had, and at the other end, those who would be imprisoned for the bad thoughts they did not have.
The three points above that make it impossible for the humans to punish thoughts, do not apply to God. First, God sees our thoughts even before they form: “You know my thoughts before I think them” (Psalm 139:2). Second, God knows all our activities: “You know when I sit down and when I get up… you know where I go and where I lie down” (ibid.) Third, he knows who we are, what we do and everything about us: “Lord, you have examined me and know all about me… You know everything I do” (ibid.). And fourth, he knows each word we say and we will say, “Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it” (ibid.).
Thus, it is impossible for any human being to fake anything, to hide anything and to lie or to defend themselves. Therefore, sin has no defence. Sin can be punished on thinking alone and on both thinking and acting. And only God is able to punish sin, because he is not affected by the three limitations identified above.
Strictly speaking, there is no Absolutely Liability offence with God. God has not been known to punish someone for the actions they were not responsible for, the acts they did without mens rea or intent. Thus, God will not punish mistakes, or evil acts that may happen without someone’s knowledge, will, capacity or intention. In criminal law, such acts are defined as lacking criminal intent, and even in human courts, such crimes are acquitable.
In human legal systems, there is no vicarious punishment. The sins of fathers cannot be punished on their children. In the Old Testament, God would seem to mete vicarious punishment on sons up to the fourth generation: “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:5-6). And this is reiterated further here: “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18).
However, critical review of these verses show that God does not mete the ultimate punishment (death or Hell fire) transgenerationally. In other words, no son can be sentenced to death or to Hell because of the sins of their fathers: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16). And the indictive of generational punishment seems to have only been attributed to idolatry, and it was understood then that idol worship was a bequeathment where one generation passed it over to another.
But the truth is, God does not engage in vicarious punishments. This is true in human legal systems. Words like conspiracy, aiding and abating, counselling and an accomplice appear frequently in penal and criminal phraseologies. But these terms do not indicate vicarious punishment. They are events that someone, knowingly and intentionally, engaged in, in coordination with another. They are crimes because the intent and act are spread wildly between or among the guilty parties.
One thing is clearly different between human offences (such crime) and sin. God does not seem to prosecute nor punish inchoate (attempted) offences. There is nothing in divine parlance that denote attempted sins. And there is a seminal explanation to this. Sin does not have an equation element; it can happen with or without the mental or actus element. Whereas crimes need both elements to develop and consummate, sin stands alone in that regard. There is no attempt, there is only sin. It is either one has sinned or not sinned. In inchoate offences, intent is established when that gun was fired or machete thrown or robbery planned. However, and but for some external or internal unforeseeable circumstances, the act was not consummated, though it was begun. A crime that begins and does not complete is still a crime, where as a sin that starts and is not completed, may be not a sin. And the justification seems to be in their elemental configuration; one needs two elements (crime), the other needs only one element (sin).
In the last discourse, we alluded to Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her [him] in his heart.” In this verse, Jesus cements the unifactorial nature of sin. A thought alone gives rise to sin in this case. In any other situation, a sin is a crime because both intent and action are involved. Lack of intent makes it divinely impossible to punish sin. People who by their mental design or condition may not appreciate what they are doing or thinking may not commit sin according to this hypothesis, and this also includes infants and the mentally ill.
However, the Bible seems to curve a delineation between intent and knowledge. In one respect, like in human legal systems, they sound the same; in others, they are isolated. For example, we read, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). It is interested to note that their lack of knowledge did not prevent them from sinning, otherwise Jesus would not have prayed for their forgiveness. They had sinned albeit without knowing they were sinning. A leading verse on this is Hosea 4:6: “My people perish due to lack of knowledge.” The word translated perish can mean destroyed, doomed, silenced, cut off, or rejected. The word doomed comes much closer to Hell destruction than the other. If we should construe that lack of knowledge as a negative connotation leads to destruction, should we construe that doing something evil knowingly will lead to Hell or destruction? Common sense answers that question in the affirmative. Thus, intent, motive or knowledge may be grouped under the same umbrella under this hypothesis. Lack of knowledge, though, despite committing an egregious sin, is forgivable according to Luke 23:34 (ibid.).
This brings us to ignorance vis-à-vis sin and punishment. In human legal systems, ignorance of the law is not a defence. There is a presumption of the knowledge of the law even if someone has never read or known what is written in law books or cases or statutes. No-one can appear before a judge and claim to have not known the crime they committed. Human legal procedures do not allow for that. Whether one was aware or not, the fact that they met the elements of a particular crime, if convicted, they would be criminals.
In the past, God was lenient on “sins of ignorance” as we may call them. But at the launch of the new dispensation of Christ, ignorance can no longer save a soul from Hell: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). This scriptural verse needs context. It applies more to those who are exposed to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. To such people, they would not feign ignorance to save their souls. God, as we discussed, knows who knows and who doesn’t know. So, it will be very difficult to hoodwink God. In judicial terminology, it is called willful blindness, akin to, “Let us continue to sin for we will tell God we didn’t know about Jesus on Judgment Day!” This will not work.
A critical and truthful scenario might emerge of some people who had no opportunity to hear of Jesus Christ whatsoever. There are people who have no chance to hear the Gospel or any religious doctrine for that matter. Such people will have a legitimate excuse for not believing, say, in Jesus Christ. To such people Apostle Paul gives an advisory, they will be judged according to their conscience: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:12-16).
There are three thematic points for discussion here. First, law need not be written or articulated. Law is synonymous with truth, justice, just, morality and right. In most cases, law simply documents (what, in law, may be called codification) what people have agreed consciously or unconsciously to be right, trustful and good. Both God’s law and men’s laws are based on this understanding. So, everywhere people might be, whether they were exposed to the message of Jesus Christ or not, they would know what is right or wrong, and they would be judged accordingly.
Second, knowledge, awareness and presence of the law is nothing but the obedience thereof. Merely to be exposed to the law or to hear about Jesus Christ will not save anyone from imprisonment or Hell. Rather, one has to obey the law before them or the divine scripture to be saved. In that regard, both those who have no chance of hearing about Jesus and those who have repeatedly heard about Jesus are equal.
And third, conscience rules. Men are born with an innate device that distinguishes good from bad, right from evil. Children are not taught to do bad; they simply do. They are not taught to do good; they simply know. All humans, with or without religion, listen to their hearts. They know when they have offended someone, when their actions are unacceptable and when that internal voice keeps “troubling” them. All humans do is to try and subside the inner voice (conscience) until that voice becomes fainter and fainter. But that voice, as every mature human being knows, doesn’t go. It persists until a person faces up to their own reality. That, in essence, is the SafeNet God has placed in every human being. It is responsible for preparing men’s souls for Heaven. One ignore it to their own detriment.
Ignorance, is therefore, out of question. It is neither an excuse nor a defence in both human legal systems and under divine jurisdiction. People are able to know God or discern him even if no-one has ever told them about him. They may call him all kinds of names, but at the center of it, they associate everything kind, loving, good, right, just and acceptable to him. In times of ignorance people worshipped trees and other natural phenomenon, and God overlooked. Now, with the increase in knowledge (see Daniel 12:4) and informed consciences, people must know, and even make an effort to knowing God and avoiding damnation. This is not different from the human legal permutations; every citizen must know the law and behave accordingly. It is generally called the Rule of Law. Those who want to rebel against this order, to pretend it did not exist or to be wilful blind or to ignore it, have landed in many legal problems.
Because of the elemental configuration of human offences, defences are possible and usually available, except, in some excepted Absolute Liability offences. Defences are also possible because all humans (judge and the judged) both default in their journey of obedience to the law. Defences are also a mark of judicial fairness – because they offer every supplicant or petitioner an avenue to expressing their innocence or to justifying their behavior.
But sin, by its design, offers no opportunity for a defence. Does it mean that God is unjust? The answer is a resounding no. On the contrary, God offers a more solid remedy for sin, which the human judicial establishments rarely engage in. God’s way for humans to defend themselves is to ask for forgiveness. There are three reasons for this. First, if thoughts are punished, no-one can be or live sin-less. There is no-one who has not sinned (Romans 3:23). So, every person who is ever born is a candidate of Hell.
Second, any human justification or defence against sin, indirectly, makes a claim that God is a liar (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). To directly claim that a man has a defence against sin, is to indirectly claim that God does not see, know, understand men’s thoughts and is not aware of everything a person is and is doing.
And third, a defence against sin will never win. Why engage in a process when the outcome is known? Defending sin is futile and is an act of arrogance and unappreciation. Even in human legal and judicial systems, a person who knows that all evidence is stack against them and refuses an offer for a plea bargain and goes all the way with a trial (expending legal and judicial resources) may have the sentence weighed heavily against them. Indeed, in human legal and judicial systems, people have a right to be heard – and this justified on the basis that their charges have defences. However, although God will generally give souls a trial (Judgment Day), it will only be routine; their sins would have gone before them or soon appear at Judgment Day (1 Timothy 5:24).
With God and sin, there is no defence, but there is mercy and grace in abundance: “But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-8-9). Anyone appearing before God must simply beg for mercy; defending one’s sinful behavior is pointless.
To the two issues of whether David would have a defence in law if he had to fall into the hands of God; and whether human judgments and courts are more lenient than the judgment of God. The answers are (1) no, David would not have a defence if he fell into the hands of God, but he would have mercy and would have found grace. And (2), no, human judgments are strenuous because they are all legal and no mercy. However, they may be smoothed by lenience in terms of proportional sentencing reduction in sentencing where there is real remorse shown.
CAVEAT AND HINT
The LORD “does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Numbers 14:18), that is a universal and eternal truth. As hash as that may sound, there is grace with God. Church should be a place where people go to meet the forgiving God, and his judgmental or vindictive congregants. The tendency where everyone is expected to be so righteous that there is zero-tolerance for weakness or mistakes is hypocritical, because it is sually those who pretend to be holier-than-thou who need more grace. Sin has not defence, but there is grace and mercy in abundance.
“But, I am married, and I am her sectional pastor,” Elder Lampley Zuba contemplated. He had been Jennifer Muzi’s sectional leader for the past eleven years. The two had shared pleasantries here and there, of course, in the name of brotherly love. Jennifer was 29 years old, single, and very kind. She was a very committed member of the Blessing Fall Down Church (BFDC) under Pastor Handle Power. Elder Zuba was a sectional pastor or leader in BFDC.
“I like her; I love her so much – what shall I do? Propose to Jennifer? But that’ll be scandalously for me, a married man. BFDC has zero-tolerance policy on infidelity. Oh, of course, I know what to do,” Elder Zuba talked to himself.
On the following Tuesday evening, during Bible Study, Elder Zuba noticed Jennifer coming through the back entrance to the meeting room. He rushed towards Jennifer, hugged her so tightly that Jennifer could feel the elder’s chest caressing her breasts. She shouted, “No, no, Elder, not like that!”
Elder Zuba pretended not to have heard, and continued to press hard on Jennifer’s bust. Not knowing what to do, Jennifer cried out, “Help, help, help!” Only then did the 47-year-old Elder Zuba relent, and reluctantly let go off Jennifer.
Two days after that incident, Jennifer visited her medical physician and complained of deep depressive and stressful complications. She also lost appetite and began to suspect every male that came close to her, including her physician. She began to take anti-depressant medication.
Does Jennifer have a case against Elder Zuba, and if so, what would be her cause of action?
In law, there are two causes of action that might fit the scenario in casu. It could be a crime of sexual assault or a tort of battery (sexual battery).
A crime has two elements, the Latins called these elements as mens rea and actus reus. The former is an evil intent (or malice aforethought or a guilty mind) and the later is malicious act or guilty act. Both must be present for a criminal offence to be committed. In our scenario, it could be construed that Elder Zuba had a criminal intent or evil mind when he thought about groping Jennifer, when he intentionally hugged her tightly and when he refused or otherwise hesitated to let her go when she told him to stop his advances. And Jennifer can establish actus reus easily from the act of Elder Zuba’s tightly fondling her bust with his chest. If convicted, Elder Zuba may be sentenced to one to ten years in jail in Canada, and to not less than 15 years in prison in Zambia.
Jennifer could also sue in civil court for the Tort of Battery. Battery happens when there is an intentional, offensive touching or unwanted contact or use of force on a person without that person's consent. Generally, all the elements prescribed here may be present and battery may not have happened. So, the law breaks down the elements into four: (1) Duty of care; (2) Breach of the duty of care; (3) Causation; and (4) Harm. In the scenario under review here, as her elder/pastor and fellow church-member, Elder Zuba owed Jennifer a fiduciary duty and a duty of care. Elder Zuba breached that duty by imposing himself, in a sexual utility sense, upon Jennifer, causing Jennifer to suffer both mental and psychological harm. Jennifer could prove that she suffered mentally and psychologically due to the unwanted touch or contact with Elder Zuba. Her remedy might include, among other things, compensatory damages (money).
It is important to note, though, that Jennifer may bring only one action in either criminal or civil proceeding. Many jurisdictions would not allow her to seek damages in civil proceedings and imprisonment of Elder Zuba in criminal law. However, law is changing in this regard, and depending on jurisdiction, Jennifer might seek both damages in civil and imprisonment in criminal law.
In both civil and criminal law, Elder Zuba might raise a defence of consent. If he can show that Jennifer, in fact, consented to be touched that way, then he would be acquitted in criminal law or be found not liable in civil case. In Canada and Zambia, consent must be clear, expressed and voluntary in order to nullify the criminality of the event or liability of the act. In short, Elder Zuba should have received very clear consent from Jennifer, otherwise looking at the scenario, that might look too far fetched.
CAVEAT AND HINT
There are people, men and women, in churches who pry over others with sexual innuendos in the name of brotherly love. Such give unwelcome long and strenuous hugs, unsolicited kisses and so on. Usually, these types of acts are taken as “love,” and nothing happens. But in other times, such caressing may place an indelible feeling of being abused and thrown away in both men and women, boys and girls. Jesus warns: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her [him] in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And Paul advises, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity,” (1 Timothy 5:2).
[Disclaim: This is not legal advice; where possible, one should consult a competent civil litigation or criminal lawyer when in doubt].
Mabel Musonda is a twenty-seven year old believer in Christ with an arthritis precondition in her left knee. She has been a member of Blessing Fall Down Church and has been a relatively very committed member for the past seven years. Due to her condition, she welcomed Pastor Handle Power’s invitation to answer an altar-call for a prayer of healing. Everyone Pastor Power prayed for, fell backward and was conveniently caught by Heavin, the usher, just before they hit the hard concrete floor astride the altar. Mabel was, however, not so lucky as just before Heavin could catch her, she fell excessively hard and hit her left shoulder on the floor, which dislocated as a result. Mabel was rushed to the hospital where she has been receiving treatment for both her arthritic left knee and her injured left shoulder.
Can Mabel sue, and if so, whom will she name in the lawsuit?
The simple answer is yes. Mabel could sue both the church, Blessing Fall Down Church, directly, and pastor Handle Power, whom she could sue vicariously in the Tort of Negligence.
But the long answer is that suing and proving your case are two different things. To be able to win, one must establish that both the church and Pastor Power were negligent. That is a legal question. The Plaintiff (Mabel) must satisfy the court by establishing three elements of Negligence, namely, that there was a (1) Wrongful Act; (3) Causation-in-law; and (3) Hard to a legal interest. It is possible that Mabel will be able to prove (1) and (3) without trouble. However, to prove (2), more may be required.
A Wrongful Act happens when the Defendants (in this case, the church and Pastor Power), breached their duty of care which they do owe to everyone who attends the services or mass. As good occupier (a legal concept which means that a person or entity that invites others to conduct an activity or a visit on their premises) must ensure that those who attend at their premises are not injured. The fact that Mabel fell and was not caught should easily establish Wrongful Act.
Harm will easily be proved by medical reports, witnesses who were there when the accident happened in church and Mabel’s own testimony.
The critical legal issue is Caution. In law, there are two types of causation. Causation-in-Fact and Causation-in-Law. Causation-in-Fact is established by the “But for” Test. This test asks: But for the actions or omissions of X (where X is the Defendant/s), would Y (where Y is the Plaintiff) had been harmed or injured or made to suffer a loss? This answer should be an obvious “Yes.” However, courts do not consider Causation-in-Fact as a triable issue. The real question is Causation-in-Law. To establish Causation-in-Law, the courts must look to two attendant legal concepts of “Foreseeability” and “Proximity.” And to both we may ask: Should a reasonable organization or person such as Blessing Fall Down Church and Pastor Power, respectively, would have foreseen that if a person falls backwards on a concrete floor without some form of cushion they would be able to harm or injure themselves?
It is clear that from our factual scenario, a person who falls backwards without any remedial cushion would injure themselves. Subject to the explanation both witnesses, Heavin and Pastor Power might present, the courts might determine for or against the church and Pastor Power.
CAVEAT AND HINT:
Church organizations and Ministers of the Gospel are not immune to committing negligent acts in these situations. Giving the nature of the fall in the laying on of hands, it is wise to always have either cushions or a human agent to catches those who are falling. In Mabel’s case, although she had been arthritic even before the fall, she could easily bring another law suit against the church and Pastor Power for reactivating a pre-existing condition in her knees.
The Bible says, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves,” (Matthew 10:16b). Indeed, the Wrong (Tort) of Negligence thrives where there is harm to a legally defined interest.
[Disclaim: This is not legal advice; where possible, one should consult a competent civil litigation lawyer when in doubt].
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