I’m excited to kick off a new series: Ask Pastor Chris! As we get great questions that we think others might be wondering about, I’ll be posting them for you here.
Ask Pastor Chris: Should Christians sue?
Recently we received a question about law suits. The one who asked the question mentioned a belief that Paul forbids Christians from law suits. The question did not provide many details about the persons involved or the situation, so I will attempt to answer with broad strokes.
It is true that the Bible forbids law suits in certain situations, and specifically the Apostle Paul gives such instructions in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. The church at Corinth was a messy situation and Paul had much to sort out when he wrote this letter. One of the issues he addresses is law suits, and law suits between believers in particular. The issue at Corinth was that church members were taking each other to court to settle their differences, rather than solving them in house. As you might imagine, such litigation destroys our witness to nonbelievers. Just think, would you go to a church if you knew members were suing each other? In this hostile atmosphere Paul steps in and offers them better alternatives.
The first option is to find someone inside the church who can mediate the situation and bring reconciliation (1 Cor. 6:5).
The second option is to suffer wrong for a greater purpose (1 Cor 6:7). In many cases we can simply choose to let it go and move on, knowing that pursuing legal recourse may bring harm to our ability to witness to others.
Let me try to draw some conclusions from this passage.
There is no blanket prohibition of law suits. There are many occasions when law suits are appropriate. For example, if you are injured by the negligence of someone else and your ability to provide for your family has ben irreparably damaged, by all means, pursue justice through legal means.
There is a prohibition on suing fellow church members. I wouldn’t do it under any circumstance. Work out your issues in house, bring in trusted mediators to help, be willing to suffer wrong for the sake of Christ, and seek to honor God in all your dealings.
Paul does not speak specifically of suing fellow believers who are not members of the same church. I would tread lightly here. Many of Paul’s same reasons apply to members of different churches. Surely if Christ is our Lord, we can find resolution in a way that honors each other and Jesus.
The gospel enables us to suffer wrong. If this life is all there is, then absolutely sue any and everyone you can to get the most money you can and squeeze the most enjoyment out of life that you can. If however, there is life eternal we can trust that the God of the universe will bring justice to those who take advantage of us. Additionally, we know that in the end we, who have true faith in Jesus, will receive much more than we deserve anyway. Ten thousand years from now, this legal matter will be of little consequence.
Paul’s system of dealing with these matters in house does not extend to criminal activity. Let’s take domestic violence as an example. If a church becomes aware that a child in the church is being abused by parents or caregivers, Paul is not suggesting we deal with these matters internally. Allow the proper authorities to deal with criminal behavior and err on the side of protecting the victims.
ChrisOrr holds a Master Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as a senior pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church. Chris and Katie are former Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) staff members, parents to three children, and part of the church revitalization movement.
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