Should Christians Settle Cases in Law Courts? (Part 1)

13th July, 2023

Is it appropriate for Christians to engage in legal action against each other? If I feel cheated by a church member or the church, should I get a lawyer? What does the Bible say?

In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, the Bible says:

(CEV) When one of you has a complaint against another, do you take your complaint to a court of sinners? Or do you take it to God’s people? Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? And if you are going to judge the world, can’t you settle small problems? Don’t you know that we will judge angels? And if that is so, we can surely judge everyday matters.

Why do you take everyday complaints to judges who are not respected by the church? I say this to your shame. Aren’t any of you wise enough to act as a judge between one follower and another? Why should one of you take another to be tried by unbelievers? When one of you takes another to court, all of you lose. It would be better to let yourselves be cheated and robbed. But instead, you cheat and rob other followers.

From this passage, it is clear that:

There are various reasons for this: First, most times, secular judges are not able to judge by biblical standards and Christian values. God gave Israel laws for settling disputes and issues that arise among them. The Israelites were not to go and have people of other nations settle their disputes for them.

Can you imagine two Israelites going before an Ammonite to settle their dispute for them?

By going before unbelievers to settle their issues, Christians give the right to the world to dictate what happens in their midst. The Bible says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey?…” (Romans 6:16 NIV).


What Happens When Christians go to Court?

As such, when Christians submit themselves to secular arbitration, they are then bound to follow the systems and decisions of the secular courts.

Historically, disputes in public courtrooms were a popular form of entertainment in Greek culture. People went to the secular courts to watch the legal disputes as a pastime.Litigation is a process where two opposing parties are involved in a legal dispute. It is often seen as confrontational or hostile. In some countries’ legal systems, parties are encouraged to try resolving their conflicts through mediation (discussion where a third person listens to both sides and tries to get them to settle things peacefully) before going to court. However, lawsuits generally involve both parties taking opposing positions with the assistance of lawyers, either inside or outside the courtroom. This situation can lead to conflict, and both parties may display negative behaviour during the court proceedings.

Subjecting a dispute between Christians to a secular Court creates a negative witness. Unbelievers may see Christians behaving just like they do and this would hurt the cause of Christ.

Paul even stated that it would have been better to be defrauded by a brother and suffer some financial loss than to take them to secular courts!

Christians often go to court based upon the pursuit of things that God opposes. Every time you see a church group go to court, it is because of money, property and material things. So Paul said, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated and go your way? Why drag the name of the Lord in the mud?”

So what then?


Should Every Dispute in the Church be Swept Under the Carpet?

Not at all. There is a reason Paul asked whether there are no wise men in the church to deliberate the disputes about things of this world.The Lord Jesus gave the pattern for settling conflicts within the church. He said:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

So the pattern is: Go directly and privately to the person with whom you have a conflict. If the person that you have a conflict with doesn’t listen, take one or two church members and approach them again. And if the person still doesn’t listen, take the matter before the church.If the person still refuses to listen after the church gets involved, then that person should be treated as an unbeliever.

The ultimate goal of any Christians who are involved in a conflict should be to resolve it peacefully and retain their Christian relationship while also being a witness of Christ.

Still, are there specific situations where it is alright to take a Christian brother or sister to court?

Follow the link below to find out!


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