Should Christians be involved in law suits?
Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, by saying it is a shame to take legal action to another believer in front of non-believers. Paul is really addressing the matter of the heart as well as the reputation of the church. Printable version link is at the bottom of this page.
The Old Testament illustrates legal action for others for the satisfaction of their loss. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc., are found in Exodus 21:23,24. Jesus taught his disciples a higher standard—to turn the other cheek, pray for your enemies, forgive those who despitefully use you. The Old Testament teaching was replacing what was taken or lost. Jesus was more concerned about one’s heart and their eternal destiny.
Anger, unforgiveness, and revenge are inner emotions that will rob every Christian from being the person that God expects for His followers. Jesus taught Christians to not be so concerned about material things but bring about a reconciliation between parties. If it is commanded for us to forgive others, how can we forgive someone and bring suit against them? Does that mean that we should not bring a law suit to anyone? What about a non-believer?
Whenever a believer is wronged by another believer, the offended party should consider a few options: First, should he or she drop the matter, leaving the judgment in the hands of God. Secondly, after prayer and consideration, have a face-to-face meeting with the offending party to work out issues and settlement. Thirdly, one may consider a mediator that will be “neutral” to both sides. Fourthly, should the matter be brought before the church or church leadership to help bring resolution.
What happens when a believer is wronged by a non-believer? Paul wasn’t trying to imply to give up all legal rights by “turning the other cheek” but to consider all options, including one’s reputation. Punishing wrongdoers means protecting the innocent. If one is innocent and has been wronged, the question is not to “get personal vengeance” but rather make sure the offending party replenishes all was lost and that they do not do the same for innocent people.
Another question to ask is, why should a Christian think about bringing a law suit against another? Some seek personal gain instead of justice. Others may seek to compensate their anger. In both cases, grounds for bringing a suit, according to the Bible, is not justified. Again, believers (Christians, followers of Christ) should have a higher standard of ethics to follow. God sees all and knows all. As mentioned earlier, it is a matter of the heart. If one brings suit for financial gain or to hurt or injure someone for personal reasons, that person will be accountable to God in the day of Judgment.
There is also a matter of insurance. Most people and churches carry liability insurance. Most of the time the insurance companies will pay damages or injuries incurred but what if a Christian was injured while riding with a fellow Christian and the insurance company refused to pay injuries. A suit between two people really does not stem from personal malice but it an effort to collect from the insurance company. Is this appropriate? First of all, one must consider how that looks within the community. Others will read that one party is suing another party and may connect them both as being believers. Some will believe that the one sued has done something wrong. In both cases one must consider how this may look to others in the community and how this may impact their reputations. The best option to take in this situation is to contact the state insurance commissioner to allow them to mediate the claim for the injured party. Most insurance companies desire to please the state’s commissioners. They will also find out any possible reasons for denial that would also be a denial in the courts. This would save money as well as reputations within the community.
America seems to be in a sue-happy world. Often it is never a matter of right or wrong but is a matter of “how much money can I get”. A Christian should consider a number of different options, pray and ask God for direction, and consider working things outside of the legal system to protect the reputation of others.
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