Going To Law

In the church at Corinth there were those who had disagreements among themselves, and instead of settling their differences peaceably, they hailed each other before the city courts. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:7, “Now, therefore, there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather allow yourselves to be defrauded?” And then in verse 8 of the same chapter, he adds a sharp rebuke — “Ye do wrong.”

The reason one person goes to law against another person, is because he is determined to force the other to treat him justly. But Christians should rather suffer wrong than do wrong. And the Bible says that if someone defrauds us, “Why not rather take wrong?” If a Christian has been wronged by another Christian, the best course of action may be to simply take the loss for the sake of his Christian testimony. Two Christians fighting in a public courtroom is a poor advertisement for the Christian faith. Instead of maliciously defrauding our brother (verse 8), would it not be better to take the wrong ourselves (verse 7)? We may win a court case and lose much more — our Christian testimony.

The instructions in 1 Corinthians 6 forbid especially going to law with brethren, but the admonition certainly should have a restraining influence upon those who would enter into lawsuits with non-Christian neighbors as well.

Most lawsuits down through the years have been started over trifles, and the differences could have been settled in much better ways. To attempt to have a matter between two or more Christians settled by a tribunal of the world, is one of the worst things that can be done. The Bible says that wrongs between fellow Christians should be settled within the church, and not before the courts of the world. Jesus teaches procedures to use when things don’t go smoothly in His kingdom. See Matthew 18:15-18. If the three-step course of action mandated by Jesus seems like a long hard way to become reconciled, we must remember that God wants us to be quick to forgive and slow to condemn.

Believers will some day judge angels; surely they ought to be able to settle trifling matters that arise between them. Certainly each congregation has a few believers who are persons of discernment, in whom resides the Holy Spirit, and to whom one can look for an impartial decision (1 Corinthians 6:3-4). And if the grievances can’t be settled by setting up a church court, why not take wrong rather than expose the church to an open shame?

–Harold S. Martin
November/December 1977