This second part of Josephus Tan’s compelling testimony continues from the February 2019 issue of Methodist Message.
After being called to the Singapore Bar in 2009, Josephus Tan, who attends Fairfield Methodist Church, began to make a name for himself for his pro bono work.
In 2013, he received a Pro Bono Ambassador award from the Law Society after clocking more than 1000 hours of pro bono work. News of his pro bono caseload was greeted with much scepticism as cynics questioned his motivation since such cases obviously did not help pay the bills. Such have been his mental and financial challenges as Josephus lives out his promise to God, made in a rundown little church in Southampton over a decade ago, to use his life as a testimony for Christ.
Perhaps the biggest test came in 2017 when he agreed to defend the murderers of Annie Ee, an intellectually-challenged young woman. As gruesome details emerged of how the couple, who had housed Ee, abused and killed her, Josephus had to weather criticism and anger from netizens, and also doubts from family and friends.
When asked how he could defend the perpetrators of such horrific crimes, Josephus pointed to how Jesus challenged those who were without sin to cast the first stone at the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3–11). He said, “If Jesus could unquestioningly extend His grace to sinners, who am I to do otherwise? My pupil-master, the late Subhas Anandan, once told me that no matter how heinous their crime, a defendant still deserves a proper defence.”
Whenever he visits former clients in prison, he is encouraged to see how his work among the downtrodden has led to Christ’s name being glorified. He hopes that his clients and those with whom he comes into contact can see Christ and experience His goodness through his actions.
Once, a convicted murderer told Josephus he was a good man for being willing to defend him. The lawyer was quick to honour Christ by sharing how he worships Jesus. He then pointed the inmate to the Bible, which was available in prison, as the way to find out more about Jesus. In time, the inmate accepted Christ.
Josephus has scaled back on pro bono commitments in recent years. He now gives talks to youths in schools and other institutions in the hope of inspiring them with his story.
Describing his Christian journey as staying in a personal relationship with God, he shares: “Continue to talk to God; keep the conversation going. Keep the faith even if you think God has forsaken you. Even if you feel that you are too deep in the gutter and no one is listening, trust me—God is. Open your heart to Him, and never give up.”
Jason Woo is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive. When not working on the latest articles, he enjoys long jogs and cuddling up with his cats along with a good book.
Photos courtesy of Josephus Tan