Metamorphosis Of Sin: The Legal And Moral Hypothesis.
Metamorphosis as literally defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a gradual but noticeable change in character, appearance, function or condition. It could also denote a transformation such as that of magic or by sorcery.
Biologically as defined by Wikipedia, it is a process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relative abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth and differentiation. Pathologically, it involves a change in issue in the structure of a specific tissue.
What nexus does sin then have with the biological transformation of animals? Are there lessons to be drawn from it vis-à-vis the crux of the issue at hand? For a better comprehension and appreciation of this piece, inference and analogy will be drawn from the above explained biological process in order to aid the literal application of the principles derived.
In realising the purpose of this concise but pointed postulation, the work will limit itself to the legal and moral perspectives of metamorphosis of sin. Also, for the purposes of this work, sin will be used interchangeably with offence though not all sins are offences in our criminal jurisprudence. As an addendum, measures in curbing the infractions ensuing therefrom will be preferred.
Legally, under the English Common law, there are two elements to an offence namely: actus reus and mens rea. Mens rea is a Latin expression denoting guilty mind, usually referring to the guilty state of mind required for a crime in conjunction with a prohibited act. Actus reus on the other hand is the guilty act itself. It is always the manifestation of the mental element (mens rea).
For a prosecution to secure the conviction of an accused person, he must succinctly prove to the court that the accused had the mental element which is the “intention” at the time of commission of the offence. This is reflected in the doctrine of criminal responsibility under Section 24 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
Simply put, covert acts always precede an overt act. There is no offence that lacks mental element; it must always be there which most times metamorphose and manifests its physical element if not prevented. Offences like rape, stealing (theft), armed robbery and murder are apt examples in this regard.
Though it may be hard for the intention to be probed as opined by Bryan CJ (as he then was) when he said that “even the devil himself knows not the heart of man”, the outward conduct and the demeanour of the accused most times clearly exhibit the metamorphosis of his sin which is or yet to be manifested.
More so, there are however instances that the physical element will be immaterial because the only the intention (mental element) suffices in establishing the guilt. This is always common in offence of conspiracy to commit another offence like treason, armed robbery, rape etc which can cause great harm to individuals and society at large.
From the foregoing analysis, it can be summed up that there is no offence that is committed against the state which causes harm to an individual or to the society that comes by surprise, the intention is always nurtured and gradually becomes fully grown, capable of causing disaster and calamity. If prevented, such negative growth can be stunted.
Morally, the sluggish metamorphosis of sin is not left untouched neither do we not have stories to deter us from becoming preys. Some biblical accounts and stories have buttress the fact that sin transforms from one small stage or form to another. Few examples will suffice.
Apparently, the basis and methodology of how sin metamorphose is clearly enunciated thus: “But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire, then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death” –James 1:14, 15.
The above can be seen as being the candid truth in the case of King David of old, who committed adultery with Beth-Sheba, killing her husband by the sword. This serious sin negatively metamorphosed and manifested. It started from looking to calling, calling to touching, touching to adultery, adultery to killing. What a pathetic but logical metamorphosis of sin.
Similar to the case of David is the story of Achan, who during the destruction of city of Jericho ‘looked’ and ‘desired’ what belonged to Almighty God, stole them and buried them beneath his tent. He allowed his sin to metamorphose from looking to desiring, desiring to stealing that consequently brought calamity to his household and to the Israelites in extension, creating an unpleasant record behind.
Adversely, would these calamities have befallen these individuals if they had taken decisive action to uproot, eradicate and discard their bad desires and intentions from their hearts? Would there have been any room for these evil desires to metamorphose if the right steps were taken at the right time? Absolutely no.
These ones are not the only infractions from the Bible and around us; the list is not exhaustive as several others on this issue go unreported and unpublicised on our day to day activities, which could be curbed at early stage as it is developing.
Shall we continue this way forever?
“For from inside, out of the heart of men, come injurious reasoning, sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, greed, acts of wickedness, deceit, brazen conduct, an envious eye, blasphemy, haughtiness, and unreasonableness” said Jesus Christ at Matthew 7:21,22.
Since all these bothers down to our heart, it is very imperative for us to safeguard our hearts against these negative intentions and desires. We must take decisive actions to exterminate wicked desires from our hearts before it gets rooted. As a matter of fact, we must determine to avoid nurturing same in our hearts.
We should always take cognizance of the fact that our heart is treacherous and can act desperately. Bearing this on our mind will always help us to eschew and abhor over confidence which can becloud our imagination and not letting us accept corrections from others when they see us going astray.
Finally, we must avoid occasions, situations, activities and developments that could lure and lead us to becoming organisms for the experiments of metamorphosis of sin. It is better to be deterred from the bad mistakes of others than becoming victims of same predicament.
Edikan Ekanem is a contemporary writer and a columnist. He can be reached at 08130015006 or [email protected]