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God's Free Gift

Christianity >> Christians and the Courts

Suing someone has become a great American past time. Based upon a very informal survey (I thought about all those people I know), it appears that Christians enjoy this past time almost as much as non-believers. Should we?


We have been studing the Sermon on the Mount in Sunday School. Matthew 5:40 tells us:

If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.

Paul picks up on this same theme at 1 Corinthians 6:7 when he writes:

Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 

Both of these passags are addressed to us, the saints, the saved people of the world. We are, by definition, to be different from all of those in the world who do not recognize God. We are to be noticed because we "love one another." If we love, then we should not be caught fighting. In one sense, in America, the ultimate fight is to sue. So, if Christian brothers and sisters are to always love, we should never be found in the courtroom suing each other.

This raises another question. What if the other part is a non-believer? Obviously, if the other party sues us first, we need to defend ourselves. Or, do we?

What if the other party harms us or causes damage to our property? Can we sue them?

These are the types of ethical / theological issues those who sit in ivory towers struggle with. How far do the teachings of Jesus and Paul carry over into the world? Christians are to be "in" the world but not "of" the world. Certainly, there is a sense in which charging off to court is part of being "of" the world.

Since each type of situation is different by its own nature, the issue of suing must be considered on its own merits. There does not appear to be a specific declaration in Scripture about lawsuits with unbelievers. However, some of the examples given in the Sermon on the Mount may be based upon situations involving non-believers. For example, the admonition to go the extra mile is probably based upon the practice of the Roman military to "draft" civilians to carry a soldier's backpack and equipment.

The situation assumes the Christian is being treated unfairly. However, the point Christ offers is that even in this situation, we are to respond with kindness. As Jesus tells us in the Sermon, we are to "love our enemies!" (Matt 5:44). Is suing someone an act of love?

What brings this all about is an article in this morning's Washington Post about the efforts of the Alliance Defense Fund. This group is a conservative, basically Christian response to the ACLU. Where the ACLU sues to remove the Ten Commandments, the ADF sues to keep the Ten Commandments in place.

This raises the question as to whether or not Christians should support the ADF or similar groups. Should Christians sue for their religious rights? Is this an act of love?

One of the key elements of the Sermon on the Mount is a distinction between individual actions and group or corporate actions. Government and the church are corporate entities established by God to help control sin on the earth. They each have their own arenas of operation, just as the individual has a different arena and assignment. The trick is to distinguish which entity a particular passage speaks to, and to define the assignments of each group.

For example, the government is to protect the peace. Within some limits, this includes protecting the "rights" of the citizens. We need to be careful, because Americans are use to having "rights" that Jesus might not agree with. Just becasue we are an American does not mean we exercise all of our rights as Americans. Our Christian freedom may cry out against using a particular right if it gets in the way of promoting the Gospel.

So, if the Sermon on the Mount tells individual Christians not to sue their Christian brothers, can they sue unbelievers? Since we are to love our enemies, suing them probably is not an act of love and as individuals, we should not enter into law suits, even with unbelievers, in most circumstances.

On the other hand, as a group, say the church, we have a duty to protect our right to evangelize. Within limits, this may allow us to sue non-believers. We are not creating a specific stumbling block for a given indivdual, so the idea of a corporate suit is valid.

This is where the ADF and other similar groups stand. The church failed to protect its abilities to promote our faith many years ago. The ADF is finally stepping in to act as a buffer against the forces of evil that are present in those who would legally attempt to prohibit our freedom of evangelism. So, on the surface at least, there should be no biblical prohibition against these corporate type law suits.

On the other hand, if time reveals a stumbling block, then the concept of loving our enemy carries its full weight and we must back out of supporting such law suits. This calls for great discernment.

Of course, the other practical issue is that the church has been too lax, too long. The enemby has a tremendous head start. Blocking law suits now may be too little too late. We will only win the battles by relying not on the courts, but upon the supernatural power of God to change hearts and the entire mood of the country. That works everywhere, while winning a law suit in Oregon does little to help the law suit in Delware.

God's in control. Maybe we need to rely upon Him more!

Jim A

 

Posted On: 2006-07-10 11:27:57 || Comments (0 ) || Add a Comment
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