Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining. Each side tries to prove its claims. Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury? You never know until the final verdict.
But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court? In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do. In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians. The Apostle had some things to say about it.
Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6
The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism. We are a body. We’re to function as a unit.
There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye. In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages? It may sound foolish to even ask that question. Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.
According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties. In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.
But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here. It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us. They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy. We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.
I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right. I need to check my motives. Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?
Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8
Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy. The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.
He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ. But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.
The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us. There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case. In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.
Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships. I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him. As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.
Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?
© 2019 Nick Zaccardi