Summary: Why can't a Christian sue another Christian? And can a Christian take a non-Christian to court? And how should a lawyer who is Christian handle lawsuits?
In 1910, a man named Olaf Olavson was desperate for cash, so he sold his body to an institute in Sweden to be used for medical research after he died. But in 1911, he unexpectedly inherited a fortune and decided to "buy himself back." To his surprise, the institute wouldn't cooperate. Shocked by this, Olavson flatly refused to donate his body so the institute actually sued for breach of contract. The court found that - not only did Olavson owe his body to the Institute, but since he'd had 2 teeth removed without the Institute's permission, Olavson had illegally tampered with their property. (Uncle John's 4th Bathroom Reader, p. 39)
We live in the United States of America – perhaps the most law-suit happy nation in the world. In 2016 it was reported that The US had 1,315,561 Licensed Lawyers. We have more lawyers per capita than any other nation in the world. Over 70% of the world’s lawyers live in the US and the US is one of the top 5 nations when it comes to lawsuits. (https://www.clements.com/sites/default/files/resources/The-Most-Litigious-Countries-in-the-World.pdf)
This is totally irrelevant to the sermon, but guess where the largest percentage of lawyers per population is in the US? Washington D.C.. They have 784 lawyers for every 10,000 residents. Compare that to Indiana where we have 28 lawyers per 10,000 residents. (http://www.denniswpottslaw.com/united-states-attorneys-map/)
Now doesn’t that just warm your heart? Of course, you have to ask yourself: why are there so many lawyers in America? The answer: Americans are a people who have “rights” and they so firmly believe in their rights that – if someone violates those rights, does them damage or offends them – they’ll sue. They intend to have “justice” if someone doesn’t respect their rights.
When it comes to the courts, many people believe in the saying: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” In the play “Fiddler on the Roof” one of the villagers says to the Tevye (the lead character) “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” To which Tevye replies: “Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”
Now that sets the tone for our sermon this morning. Paul writes the church at Corinth (which apparently had its own share of lawyers) “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1) Apparently some of the Corinthian Christians had indeed been taking their brothers to court … and God wasn’t happy about it.
But now, why would God be unhappy? I mean - doesn’t God believe in justice? Well of course He does. Our God is a just and righteous and holy God. In fact we know about right and wrong and about justice… comes from God.
God believes in justice… but He’s more committed to mercy. And if you think about it, that’s a good thing because if we truly got justice from God - if you and I got what we deserved – we’d go to hell. So demanding what we deserve is probably NOT a good idea.
But again I ask: why doesn’t God want us to take fellow Christians to court? Well, 1st – it’s bad for our witness. Paul writes: “… brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers” 1 Corinthians 6:6
Now, let’s back up for a minute and ask ourselves: what is the purpose of the church? Why does the church exist? Jesus said our purpose was to “… make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In other words the church’s purpose is to reach out to UNbelievers. And Jesus even said our best tool for this purpose was this: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
So, if that’s true, tell me: are lawsuits a good witness if Jesus said people would know us by our love? I DON’T think so!
So 1st – taking fellow Christians to court isn’t good for our witness. And 2ndly – if we take Christians to court we declare to world that we don’t trust God or His church. Paul writes: “do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,” I Corinthians 6:2-5