Perhaps my perception is awry. But it seems to me that we are experiencing an alarming increase in Christians and Christian organizations taking each other to civil courts and/or threatening to sue each other.
Off the top of my head I can think of lawsuits with plaintiffs who can be classified as Christian, Christian Church, Christian College and Christian Blogger. In these cases the defendants also contained the Christian moniker.
What should we think of this apparent trend? Honestly, we do not have to think that earnestly. If the Bible is the source of authority for Christians, we already have an answer.
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or 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, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
(1 Corinthians 6:1-8 ESV – Emphasis mine)
Shame & Defeat
This passage indicates that this is to our shame. Those suing should be ashamed. They might not feel the shame, but it is nonetheless shameful.
A Christian might win a lawsuit against his Christian brother, but Paul writes that even suing your brother is already a defeat.
What Should a Christian Do With His Grievance?
The following courses of action are not intended to be exclusive of each other. Keep that in mind as you read.
Enlist the aid of respected Christians or Christian institutions to judge the grievance between the two Christian parties. Look at these statements derived from the text.
- Saints will judge the world.
- Saints will judge angels.
- Saints should be judging between other saints.
It is better to be wronged and defrauded rather than sue believers in civil court. We follow a leader who was wronged. We are not better than our master. Yes, it might be painful, but it is for the greater good of the church – which bears the name of Christ.
Our purpose is not to be treated fairly, but to bring honor to the name of our Lord. When we remember that top priority, it helps make the other decisions a bit easier.
The Bible teaches us elsewhere to go to our brother seeking reconciliation when we have either wronged that brother or been wronged by him. Let’s assume that you have tried to reconcile with a brother over a grievous act committed against you. That brother does not hear you and continues his actions. Then take others with you and try again. If that fails, take it to the church. If that fails the church should exercise discipline against the unrepentant person.
At this point the offending person is to be treated as an unbeliever. That changes the situation from what Paul was teaching about in 1 Corinthians 6. My point is not that it is okay to sue the person then (I think you could), but that you should not sue until you have taken these steps.
If I am missing something here, please let me now. If not then let’s exercise biblical teaching in the way we live in this world.