Question:

Is it right for a Christian to take another Christian or non-Christian to court? If yes, please, why?

Thanks.

Answer:

"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren" (I Corinthians 6:1-8).

It appears that the Corinthians were taking their personal disputes before government courts. Paul stated earlier that Christians had no jurisdiction over non-believers, but they were required to judge believers. "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges" (I Corinthians 5:12-13). Thus, their settling disputes in civil courts show that they were failing to uphold God's requirement.

Christians are quite capable of making judgments between brethren. After all, Paul points out that Christians will be called upon to judge the world (Psalm 149:5-9; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Jude 14-15) and angels in the end. Compared to these, settling disputes between Christians is a minor thing. Likely Paul is referring to condemnation in the sense of what Noah did against the world (Hebrews 11:7). Noah’s entrance onto the ark proved that God was not asking the impossible of men. In the same way, if men in this corrupt world can manage to be saved, then those angels who fell have no excuse seeing that they have far greater advantages. Nor can other men in the world claim that salvation wasn’t possible for them. If Christians can be such a powerful statement for righteousness in the future, surely they should be able to determine right and wrong in disagreements.

Instead, the Corinthians had been taking matters before men who will eventually be condemned by them. Men of this world do not hold to the standards of Christ; thus, one would not expect a fair judgment from their hands. The fact that they have resorted to worldly courts is a matter of shame in the eyes of Paul. Surely, Paul argues, they have at least one member wise enough to trust in settling disputes. Instead, they hold men of the world in higher esteem than all the brethren in the church. It would have been much preferable to have suffered wrongly at the hands of a brother than to take disputes between two Christians before unbelievers to be settled.

To become involved in a wrongful action to settle a wrong done to you doesn’t make the results turn out to be right. This is not to say that Christians should treat other Christians badly with no consequences (I Thessalonians 4:6). Rather Paul is pointing out that since two wrongs don’t make a right, it would have been preferable to have allowed the personal injustice than to create a travesty of justice.

From this, we conclude that when dealing with non-Christians, using the courts to settle disputes is not wrong. For example, when Paul was about to be handed over to the Jews, he appealed to the Roman court system. "If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar" (Acts 25:11).

Similarly, if a Christian begins behaving as a non-believer and breaking civil law, then he will have to be turned over to the government's courts since he no longer accepts the rule of his brethren in his life. However, civil disputes between Christians should be settled within the church.

Response:

Thanks. I am grateful for this answer.

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