LITIGATION AND LOSS

  • 1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
  • 6. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

    Recently, as you’ll know, the Mouse has been looking at 1 Corinthians in detail. This is the part where Paul expresses his amazement that they are actually taking each other to court. And what is the outcome anyway—who loses? If we are to judge the world and even judge angels, should we judge minor disputes between our brethren?

    I have actually covered this section already, so some of you may have read it. If so I beg your indulgence as I could hardly get to this chapter and miss it—I would be depriving those who didn’t read it last time! >ᴥ<

    1 Corinthians 6

    1 Does any one of you, having a case against another, dare to be judged by the unjust and not by the saints?

    While considering judging those within or outside the assembly, Paul brings up the subject of brethren who are actually taking each other to the civil court.

    Translation notes: The word for ‘unjust’ also means ‘unrighteous’ or ‘sinful,’ so he is talking about a court run by unbelievers, but it also implies that their judgment will not be in accordance with true justice; and that the main characteristic of unbelievers is their unrighteousness—their lack of justice. The word for ‘saints’ means ‘most holy ones,’ not only implying that their judgment will be in line with deep holiness, but also pointing out that a prime characteristic of a saint is true justice.

    Whether the man taking the other to court in this way is hoping for a ruling in his favour rather than a just ruling (see note on verse 8), or if he simply doesn’t trust his brethren to be just, we don’t know. Either way, his thinking needs to be challenged.

    As believers, all we should seek in any dispute between us and anyone else, believer or not, is peace and God’s ruling, however painful that might be to our flesh. A demand for ‘justice’ from a secular court (or in any kind of meeting) is an attempt to hide from God’s dealings in our lives, ie, rebellion, and a fleshly attempt to defend or justify ourselves, even though defending and justifying us is God’s role.

    2 Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? If you are to judge the world, are you unworthy to judge matters of such insignificance?

    Paul’s argument here is that we really should be able to sort out our differences the way saints are supposed to do everything: by hearing from the Holy Spirit and doing as we are led—which will normally be self-sacrificially. The reason he describes these matters as insignificant, is because they pertain to the world and the flesh and are therefore insignificant to a believer: all that actually matters to us personally—our provision, defence, security, hope and future are all in Christ, not in anything a worldly court could rule on.

    3 Don’t you know we will judge angels, and not at all the things of this life?

    All the other translations seem to think that because judging angels is such an exalted task, then we will have no difficulty judging worldly matters. While this is true, it’s not what Paul is saying: we are called to the kingdom of God, where our concerns are not even on the same plane as those of unbelievers—all we are interested in is the will of God, whether it applies to angels or men. We are already not part of ‘this life’ in any real sense, so it’s not ‘…how much more the things of this life,’ it’s “…and not at all the things of this life.”

    4 Indeed, if you have everyday disputes to be judged, you appoint those despised by the assembly.

    These ‘despised by the assembly’ are the secular judges whose authority in the assembly is zero.

    5 I say this to embarrass you. Is there nobody wise among you, not even one, competent to reconcile his brethren?

    As believers we each have the wisdom of Christ, so a small matter of worldly property or rights shouldn’t be a problem for anyone in the assembly. Paul is not recommending setting up some kind of arbitration service within the assembly, he’s expressing his amazement that it’s even come up as a problem. His position is, “what are you thinking?”—see verse seven.

    6 No—brother goes to law with brother, and this before unbelievers!

    The outcome of these disputes, managed so badly, is not the justice they claim to seek, but a breakdown in relationships within the assembly and a completely compromised witness, ie, utter failure.

    7 Truly, you have already suffered loss since you have litigation among you. Why not prefer to be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

    They are trying to avoid material loss by litigation, but the loss they have actually experienced is the serious spiritual loss sustained by the entire assembly because they take each other to secular courts, displaying their worldly ways. It signifies utter defeat in their efforts to live as disciples of Christ. Paul is amazed that they have so misunderstood the nature of a disciple that they would even consider going to law.

    If we are wronged, we need to see that God has allowed it, so we can take it as an opportunity for the indwelling Christ to respond in the Spirit with grace, blessing and forgiveness. This He will do as we turn to Him in faith, committing the brother and the situation to Him, refusing to do anything which might harm our brother.

    8 No, you yourselves wrong and cheat others, even your brethren!

    Here’s the bottom line: they insist on litigation because they plan to win, at any cost, to their brother’s loss. Their motive is not to reach a just verdict, but to cheat their brother. This should never be even considered by a disciple of Christ—everything we do is to be an expression of love or we dishonour God.

    Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

    1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-176. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

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    2 comments

    1. All soo true yet is it emphasize enough that justice can only be served by those that are not despised but those that are accepted as being part of the loving community of the saints that we should be?

      It should be the most natural thing to go to those within Christian circles who are recognized as being able to judge even the smallest of matters because we know them in love.

      Those who judge are not qualified to do so only because they have an excellent grasp of what is right and wrong. Even if someone has a perfect grasp of what is true in God’s sight they still do not have the standing to judge unless they are recognized in the sight of God and the community as being part of that community, because they love that community. The people used to flock to the judges of Jewish antiquity who got this right.

      What had happened to this Christian community that it had already lost this natural reaction so soon after the resurrection of Jesus? Paul takes to task those bringing the litigation because of their mindset of wanting to gain from their brothers. But it is so interesting that this very lack in them also would have fueled the absence of good judges to go to in their community. Because the same mindset tries to emphasize gain rather than giving. A mindset that also tries to emphasize truth above belonging.
      Can we not only find justice within a community to which we belong and which community belongs to us in the sense that it knows we love it?
      Can there be any justice where truth and belonging are not equally recognized?

      PS; Jesus says; judge not that ye not be judged. This does not mean we should not judge but it does mean that where we do we better be above reproach ourselves, a position we can only attain by belonging to and being in right standing with the One God of Love. Can there be justice outside of love? Can there be belonging outside of love?
      Belonging and justice are inextricably entwined in the kingdom of God. And love always wins.

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      1. Hi John, nice to see you’re still on board.

        I think the core point of that post is that going to a judge at all, whether they are unbelievers or fully paid up members of the assembly, is to fail utterly: to fail to even grasp the nature of discipleship. As Paul says, “Why not prefer to be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

        Firstly, there is the enormous spiritual loss to the man who chooses to go to court: his humility is ruined and with it his faith, thus he puts an unnecessary distance between himself and God, and makes his return more difficult. Then there’s the loss to the assembly: someone is forced to be a ‘judge’ even though none of the giftings for the assembly is ‘judge’ in any list, since we’re not supposed to have judges. Thirdly, the assembly are taught, by example, that believers’ courts are OK, when they clearly aren’t. And finally, there is the rupturing of relationships between believers on either side of the case.

        Going to a judge, any judge, is our attempt to hide from God’s dealings in our lives. He leads us into the various circumstances of our lives in order that we can respond in Christ, which always means self-sacrificially. If we take anyone to court, we are looking for the court to change the outcome so that we don’t suffer, even though that is what God has arranged. If nothing else, this will mean God has to take us to another tough situation so we can try again.

        Paul’s teaching is consistent regarding sufferings and humility: we are to actively seek and pray for humility, ie, humbling under God’s hand, so that He can lift us up. This will involve suffering and loss of face every time—as disciples of Jesus, suffering is our lot. Looking for a court (of any sort) to let us off the hook, particularly to someone else’s cost, is therefore an expression of our rebellion, our pride set against God. This is why Paul is so horrified that they are taking each other to court—any court. The fact that it was a secular court just made it worse as it also compromised their witness to the unbelievers involved.

        Regarding your comments about ‘belonging,’ I have to say I don’t understand. If we are true disciples of Jesus, we are part of His body, therefore we are one. We are not talking about some kind of club here where we pay our subs and so ‘belong’ in some way. And if you want to emphasize giving over gain, which I wholly support, you must emphasize truth and forget any distractions of ‘community,’ since that could also imply not belonging. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you cannot “not belong.”
        And if you actively seek the will of God in all your circumstances, and actively seek to bless the one who wronged you, you will find true justice and have no need of the justice of any court.

        Bless you John, Geoff >ᴥ<

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