Lawsuits And Love According To The Bible

In the last 5 years, there have been over 1.5 million civil lawsuits in Canada. And if my math is correct, nearly 45 percent of them are here in Ontario. We are one of the most litigious generations in the history of our country ( It’s quite sad. It used to be that we joked that the two things one can count on are death and taxes. We might easily add another: being sued by a neighbour, friend, or even a family member, not to be outdone by our beloved neighbours to the south. The U.S. holds the top spot for the largest number of lawsuits of any nation on earth. There are 40 million lawsuits filed in the U.S. every year. According to lawyer statistics, there are currently 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S., while U.S. companies spent $22.8 billion in 2020 alone on commercial litigation.

The following paragraph will be a long one, but you must read it to get a sense of litigation in some ancient societies. It’s fascinating. It’s from our friend William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible. “The Greeks were characteristically a litigious people. The law courts were one of their chief entertainments. When we study the details of Athenian law, we see what a major part the law courts played in the life of any Athenian citizen. If there was a dispute in Athens, the first attempt to settle it was by private arbitrator. In that event, one arbitrator was chosen by each party, and a third was chosen by agreement between both parties to be an impartial judge. If that failed to settle the matter, there was a court known as The Forty. The Forty referred the matter to a public arbitrator, and the public arbitrators consisted of all Athenian citizens in their sixtieth year; and any man chosen as an arbitrator had to act whether he liked it or not under penalty of disfranchisement. If the matter was still not settled, it had to be referred to a jury court, which consisted of two hundred and one citizens for cases involving less than about £50 and four hundred and one for cases involving more than that figure. There were indeed cases when juries could be as large as anything from one thousand to six thousand citizens. Juries were composed of Athenian citizens over thirty years of age. They were actually paid three obols a day for acting as jurymen, an obol being worth about ½p. The citizens entitled to act as jurymen assembled in the mornings and were allocated by lot to the cases on trial. It is plain to see that in a Greek city every man was more or less a lawyer and spent a very great part of his time either deciding or listening to law cases. The Greeks were in fact famous, or notorious, for their love of going to law.”

The shock for us as Christians is that brothers and sisters in the faith, fellow believers, are prone to sue one another. But taking another Christian to court is strictly forbidden. Paul registered his shock at such a discovery in 1 Corinthians Chapter 6. He even suggested that it is a cause for “shame” among Christians. He summarizes the outcome of such behaviour not as a win but as a sure loss even before the judicial outcome is posted. To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” Taking a Christian brother or sister before an unrighteous judge is choosing to defraud and wrong, even your own spiritual family. Do you see how serious it is? You are indicting your very own family. If you can’t be loyal to your family, you are in bigger trouble than you understand.    

Notice Paul’s corrective counsel. “Why not suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” If you have a clear-cut case and you are sure to win, choose instead, for the sake of love and for your reputation, to suffer loss. Choose to be defrauded. How is that possible? Because you have surrendered your suffering to the Lord, who is the righteous judge and who will reconcile all accounts in the end. It’s an act of faith. It’s an act of surrender to a higher court. Where, by the way, you alone will be vindicated or found guilty. It’s really an important part of the faith worldview. The Lord is my advocate, defender, protector, and provider. I will not seek “justice” from an unrighteous judge. I wait for the Lord to protect and provide for me. 

This text raises all sorts of questions about when it is not only wise but essential to report a fellow Christian to the legal authorities. I’m going to attempt to show you the truth that Christians are governed by TWO laws, and we live in TWO kingdoms FOR NOW.   

The sermon this coming Sunday is based on 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, verses 1 to 11. I’d love to have you join us at either the 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. service. 

Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS,

Pastor Deric