“I’ll See You In Court!”
This is an issue nobody wants to discuss, yet it’s important enough to be one of the hot topics I consider a matter of fellowship. Thank God for the court system in our country with lady justice blindly holding the scales and waiting for all the evidence to come in so that a just verdict can be reached. What better way of judgment than by a jury of our peers? Sometimes justice isn’t based on all the facts and sometimes it is ignorant, choosing to ignore the facts. Figures don’t lie but liars figure. That's the down side of the justice system but it isn't all bad and I don't intend to say it is.
Those who haven’t had a brush with the system yet most likely will at an inconvenient time. The unfortunate man without money fights against amazing odds when he faces someone with cash at his disposal. It seems justice for the “poor” does not equal justice for the “rich“. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect (my specialty), there is One who dispenses justice from which there is no appeal, no legal wrangling, no illegal gathering of evidence, no breaking and entering, no leading questions, and no getting off on a technicality of some legal point. I’m thankful His justice is tempered with mercy. Our courts today seem to temper mercy with justice in many cases.
I once told an attorney this and in his fury he assumed I was attacking his ability or the lack of it. The truth hurts, no matter who you tell it to. My efforts to point to the fact that the true Judge will judge in righteousness one of these days took time to settle in to that Christian attorney’s heart.
On one hand, right or wrong, we must have confidence in our legal system. On the other hand, though, this is not God’s plan for resolving differences in the theological realm or between believers.
At least that’s the way Paul seemed to feel about this matter in 1 Corinthians 6. His letter went to a church filled with factions and problems that resulted in reports of discord heard throughout the early churches. The carnal response to behavioral problems at Corinth was the reason why Paul sternly rebuked the church he spent nearly eighteen months with.
Though a common practice, that does not stamp God’s approval on it. In Paul’s time, taking matters before pagan courts also brought these matters before ungodly or unjust judges. The wearing of a robe does not confer righteousness on any judge.
According to 1 Corinthians 6:4, taking the least esteemed in the church, or people viewed as of little account (least esteemed), to court brings shame on the rest of the church.
The act of taking another to open court is in itself an instrument of defeat for both a plaintiff and a defendant. Both sides lose. Such cases already suffer moral and spiritual loss before being brought to a judge.
These actions clearly demonstrate Christians that are incapable of forgiving each other or reconciling their differences. How does that demonstrate the power of Christ in either the church or its members? Many theologians feel court action is a no-win situation between Christians. From the world’s point of view, it sees too much of this happening. Perhaps once is too often. It gives an incredible “black eye” to churches, an action that clearly grieves Jesus Christ as the owner of the church as well as the Holy Spirit who administrates the church.
No doubt these issues are matters of deep concern or they wouldn’t reach the level of public court. It seems, however, things like this are of much more concern to us than they are to God in the light of eternity. God’s suggested course of taking the wrong hurts but appears better than dragging the issues of strife and division into the public arena.
Consider Christ himself. Did he ever suffer injustice or harm without seeking retaliation or asking for compensation from those who treated him unfairly? There would be no world if Christ did that. There is real evidence that seeking to retaliate is a work of the flesh. What’s the other option? To suffer loss with a Christ like spirit. Is this a reason why the world has more than its share of people who tire of hearing religious claims because they would rather see them in practice?
Doctrines of the world have infiltrated the church over the years. Nearly every person would agree there’s too much of the world in churches now. When the church acts like the world, performs the same acts as the world, appeals to the world, what is the difference between the world and the church?
The world enjoys an addiction to taking people to court for almost any reason. That makes it more difficult to live for the Lord today and to live above the world’s ethics while remaining in the world but not of the world. Rather than stirring up anger and a desire among Christians for individual rights that must be upheld, legal action should break the heart of the believer. That’s why Paul suggested it was better to suffer loss than it was to continue feeding the carnal desires of the flesh. How many times has this been ignored?
Like everyone else, there are many times I could have taken people to court over countless issues. Why didn’t I? It wasn’t that I was either super-religious or more holy than anyone else or that I had the truth while everyone else was ignorant. The Lord gave me the grace to live through it.
In the world, I once served as jury foreman in a murder trial. That was an experience I’ll never forget. I was chosen for another jury in a child molestation case but the attorneys could find so few people that weren’t affected by this one way or another, they dismissed all 48 of us in the preliminary questioning. I’m far from being a stranger in court, unfortunately.
When another member of the same church I belonged to provided finances and other support for a law suit against my daughter (also a member of the same church at that time), the matter of Christians going to court with each other forced itself to the forefront of the Christian warfare we all fight on a daily basis. It broke my heart when the church I belonged to took no church action against the member that started the legal action. So far as I know, action still hasn’t been taken nor are there any plans to do so. Long ago, I turned this matter over to the true judge. For me, this was a matter of fellowship and I immediately left this church rather than stay and cause harm by letting the other members know what was happening. Yes, I suffered loss, but I did what God wanted me to do and He gave me the grace to keep on keeping on. Who got the “black eye”? We both did. Only a few people outside my family know what really happened.
In the last several months I saw a Christian man agree to let his attorney lie to a district judge in court. I know it was a lie because I heard it with my own ears. It was a lie because I was also present in the events described and things did not happen the way they were reported to the judge.
When confronted about it, the attorney could not look me in the eye. Neither could his client. In this instance, a union, a company, an attorney and a judge all received a blemish for their conduct. You cannot build the truth on a lie. It is still wrong to do wrong to do right.
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:1
While the members at Corinth possessed physical maturity, they were carnal babies in Christ. It was these babes Paul dealt with about taking each other to court. This isn’t my personal opinion or my own interpretation. Can we take Paul at his word to say what he means. Can we take God’s Spirit to mean what He says?
The reports Paul heard about Corinth were not isolated rumors. He called them common reports of things that should never have happened at all. The apostle writes a stinging rebuke under the direction of the Holy Spirit starting in 1 Corinthians 5:1.
“But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.” 1 Corinthians 6:6
A verse before that, Paul wrote, “I speak to your shame.” Not only was such a practice unseemly, it was vile. The consequences of confusion for legal action among Christians reach out to saved and lost alike.
“…there is utterly a fault among you…” 1 Corinthians 6:7
“…ye do wrong….” 1 Corinthians 6:8
Can you see what Paul said? This wasn’t questionable behavior among Christians. It was utterly w r o n g. Strong’s says this means for Christians to go to public court against each other was c o m p l e t e l y or altogether wrong by any means at all or for any reason.
Christians take each other to court all the time. This is a detriment to the whole church involved in an action, as well as the whole community around it. Harm also falls on the reputation of Christ himself.
Is the court useless? Dealing with affairs outside the bounds of church, out in the world, we could not do without courts and attorneys. What I'm writing about is in relation to matters that affect the name and reputation of Christ because they deal with issues between Christians, especially members of the same church fighting with each other over civil matters or issues regarding morals. If you think I am against court and attorneys altogether, you are wrong. Paul himself ended up in court with unbelievers and used it to try and bring men to Christ. What if attorneys did that today? Thankfully they don't have the same things on the line that Paul did.