Judging Disputes

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“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?”

1Corinthians 6:2

Engaging a fellow believer in litigation before a secular court did not happen in the Old Testament Theocracy; there was no such thing as a secular court. During the dispersion the Jews settled such cases among themselves. But how does God want Christians in New Testament times to handle such matters? Paul answers by prohibiting the settling of civil disputes between believers by the government. Note that he does not prohibit Christians suing non-Christians, nor does he argue that the believer must submit to extortion if another “believer” threatens with a civil suit. He says that we cannot initiate such a suit. Criminal matters, in most societies, are considered crimes against the state and are thus handled by prosecuting attorneys who act on behalf of the state.

In the life to come we (authentic Christians) will judge the world. If we call upon secular authority to settle civil disputes, we communicate that Christians have no basis for judging such matters, implying that God does not judge right and wrong. This harms the cause of Christ.

When tempted to bring a civil suit against another Christian, consider the following. First, in litigation, what is right and what is protecting our rights often part company. As we force others to defend themselves they easily convince themselves that their cause is just, even when the evidence demands the opposite. Second, there is no quicker way for us to discover the object of our hope than to be defrauded by another. As we wrestle with this issue, ask, “If God wants to make me rich, does He need this money to do it?” If no, then don’t litigate and trust God to make up the difference.

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