Summary: This message answers four key questions on the question of Christians suing each other.
1. What’s The Problem?
- Believers were suing each other in court.
- What does Paul think of this?
- v. 1 - “Dare any of you. . .”
- v. 6 - “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”
- v. 7 - “already an utter failure”
- Paul is shocked and dismayed that their behavior has sunk to this level.
2. Why Would A Believer Do That?
b. We don’t want the other person to get the best of us.
c. We don’t want to lose the case.
d. We don’t want to take a financial hit.
e. We don’t want our rights violated.
3. What Are The Consequences Of Taking A Brother To Court?
a. It destroys the unity of the church.
b. It destroys our witness in the public.
- In Corinth, a jury in a case could consist of anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people. Think of the breadth of the negative witness that would be brought by two believers tearing at each other in court.
- Imagine one of the litigants trying six months later to share their testimony with someone who had been one of the jurors. If there was an impact at all, it would be negative.
- Today, whether on the TV news or just having the information listed in the paper, we can have a similar negative witness when we sue a brother.
- It’s kind of like a husband fighting with his wife over her purchases. She says she hasn’t spent $200 on clothes, but the husband angrily disagrees. Unwilling to let it go, he digs through the receipts of the last two months and turns up proof that she actually spent $275 on clothes for herself. He holds the receipts up to her face, yelling, “See, I told you!” That husband, we can safely say, has won the battle but lost the war. He’s won a small victory, but at a long-term higher cost to his marriage. In a similar way, we may win a battle in court against a brother, but at a long-term higher cost of destroying our public witness.
4. What Should We Do In Such A Situation?
a. Find a mature believer within the church to judge.
- v. 5.
- It strikes me that despite this clear and obvious instruction from the Word, that I cannot think of a single situation I am personally acquainted with where a believer has actually pursued this. We claim to be faithful Christians, but then blatantly ignore the commands given us.
- As we look for someone (or some group) within the church to judge our “case,” we are not looking necessarily for someone with legal insight, but rather for someone with spiritual wisdom. The key is the spiritual qualifications, not the legal qualifications. Who do we know that we trust in that way?
- Also, we should note at this point that Paul is not instructing us that we should never go to court. There may be situations in dealing with an unbeliever where the circumstances dictate that we need to. There may be situations where we are responsible for other people’s rights and must defend them. There may be criminal situations where, both for the safety of the public and for the good of the criminal, they need to be prosecuted. We need to use wisdom to take this seriously, but not make this say more than it does.
- I’m presuming in all this that before we take our dispute to a third party that we have followed the guidelines of Matthew 18 to try to solve the problem privately at first.
b. Take the loss.
- v. 7.
- This seems completely foreign to us because of our “assert your rights” sue-happy culture. But this is what we are called to do.
- There are good reasons why we are called to do this:
a. We are better off taking a financial loss than suffering a spiritual loss.
b. We are the people of the cross.
- Jesus took the wrong suffered to Him and brought salvation out of that. In our lives, we too are called to suffer loss in the quest of something higher. “Taking the loss” seems strange to us, but it ties in perfectly with the self-renunciation that we are all called to pursue as Christians.
- Matthew 5:43-48 - return good for evil.
- Matthew 5:41 - go two miles if they ask you to go one.
- Matthew 5:42 - give to the one who asks you.
- Further, we know as Christians that our refusal to forgive has spiritual consequences for us as we get stuck in bitterness and resentment.
[Note: I am indebted to Dr. Deffinbaugh for the thoughts of one portion of this message. His message on this passage is also available on sermoncentral.com.]