What do you do when you have a disagreement between one Christian and another? Maybe they’re in the same church. What do you do when believers disagree?
When I was growing up, I had a neighbor and anytime there was a small conflict, they’d always threaten, “I’m going to sue you!” It was their mantra. So we live in a litigation-happy culture. We have this lottery mentality. Jury awards are reaching into the tens of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars for personal injury and liability lawsuits.
Some of the biggest payouts over the past year included $35 million awarded to a quadriplegic man battling his insurance company after he was hit by a drunk driver. $1 billion was awarded by a Georgia jury to a rape victim. $150 billion was awarded in damages to the family of a child who was burned.
Suing Over a Chicken Sandwich
There was a man who sued Popeye’s after they ran out of their chicken sandwich. His name is Craig Barr and he was suing Popeye’s for false advertising and for deceptive business practices to the public. Now you remember when people were lined up for the Popeye’s chicken sandwich because of a viral social media campaign, and Popeye’s said they apologize. They said the public demand for the sandwiches exceeded their projections and led to a nationwide shortage of sandwich product. So, what happens happened was people came in on the black market on chicken sandwiches and they went in and they promise to provide starved customers with the sandwiches that they had purchased and they marked up the price.
Barr even paid one sandwich dealer. The dealer backed out of the deal and that made his mental and his emotional distress even worse. So Barr said, “I can’t get happy. I have this sandwich on my mind. I can’t think straight. It just continues assumes you.” And in the filing Barr also used the phrase, “there was countless time wasted,” as part of his grievance against the fried chicken chain. Unfortunately, the time it takes for his lawsuit to proceed all the way through the record, the tape of the legal system outweighs the time he spent waiting for his chicken sandwich. We think, “okay, I’ve got a problem. So I’m going to take them to court. I’m going to seek justice through this formal legal system.” God’s word says we should try to resolve our differences peacefully and quickly or else it’s going to cause more trouble than it’s worth.
As a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer because I like to argue. I thought I could be a lawyer, but then when God called me to serve him as a pastor and as a leader and as a teacher, I thought, I’m still a lawyer, but I’m arguing for a higher court. This higher court is what we’re going to talk about today. Because 1 Corinthians 6 raises and answers this question: “Should Christians Sue each other? How do we best resolve our conflict?”
I want to share a couple of principles with you. The first is this. Paul says:
You need to judge between yourselves and the church.
Paul instructs believers to bring the church into the situation and judge between the two parties.
When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! 1 Corinthians 6:1-6
One of the claims of the Christians in Corinth was that they thought they were so wise. Surely there was somebody among them that could decide about these issues that they were facing, these disputes and conflicts. instead of taking it to like a public court and the way they would do the court is it would be like in public, in a public square. They take it to Judge Judy. They take it to the People’s Court and everybody could see all the unbelievers could see that the arguments that were there.
Paul is asking, “Why are you listening to all these people who have less spiritual wisdom to help you make a wise decision to make a spiritual decision?”
What Is Justice?
It’s appropriate that we talk about justice because there are terrible injustices in our world today. There are terrible oppressive governments around the world. There are people who are operating beneath the law and above the law. There’s human trafficking, there’s abortion. There’s a Christians who are being literally killed for their faith. They’re being martyred. Okay. children, okay. Sold into sex slavery. The poor are beaten and forced to work without pay human trafficking and modern day. Slavery continues even today. And there are more than 35 million slaves today in our world, more than any other time in history. And we understand that using force or manipulation to exploit others, to oppress others, that is nothing less than evil.
As believers, we have God’s Spirit in us. We understand what is right and what is wrong. And we know that evil should be punished and the weak should be protected. And we have a responsibility to protect those who are weaker. See, we’re wired for justice. At least we’re wired for justice. For others. We want justice for others. For ourselves, we ask for mercy.
We know that God wants justice, too. The question is: What is true justice? What is that today? There’s a lot of confusion around the word. Justice simply means to set things right. But, but an important question that is often missed is who gets to decide what is right? What is right and what is wrong? Is it determined by a vote? Is it determined by the winds and the whims of our culture as followers of Jesus. We know that God has placed within us this desire for justice because God created us and God is righteous and God is just, and God is Holy. So he cannot be unjust. And he gets to define and set the standard for true justice. So for us to pursue biblical justice, it means that we follow God’s directions to, to make the wrong. Right. And God’s word defines what is truly right. So, so in order to understand justice, we need to look to Jesus. Jesus lived out justice, justice. Isn’t just something that’s popular in our culture today. Justice, isn’t just a trend to follow. We hear a lot about social justice today.
What is social justice? Well, social justice basically could be defined as “promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity.” Social justice is about redistributing resources and opportunities. It’s about systems of oppression and about tearing down power structures and oppressive institutions. It’s about the intersectionality of oppressed identities and at its core, it’s about who is the most marginalized, who is the most victimized today. The solution that you’ll hear every time social justice is discussed in the media or in the public square, is you’ve got to “put in the work.” What do we do about this? We’ll “put in the work.” Social justice is a works-based system and it’s a works-based religion.
Social Justice has prophets, who are the authors of all of the endless books you have to read, which becomes the Canon of the Holy writings. Social justice has saints who are the social justice warriors, and it has centers. and those are the people who don’t agree with their ideas. And you never know the problem is you never know if you’ve done enough work to truly be saved.
Our Culture’s Inability to Judge Rightly
Dr. Anderson, who’s a professor in Ontario, Canada had a moment of what he called “startling clarity” while he was teaching a section in his philosophy class on ethics. He needed an attention-getter, something that would shock his students and force them to take a stand on a moral situation. He hoped it would form like a baseline of what is right and wrong that they could use to evaluate their own moral decisions.
Here’s how he explained what happened. He decided to open the discussion by displaying a photo without any comment of BiBi Aisha. She was an Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter who abused her and kept her locked up with his animals. When she tried to get away, her family caught her and cut off her nose and her ears and left her for dead in the mountains. She was saved by a nearby American hospital. And the professor said, I was certain my students seeing the suffering of this poor girl that was their age would have a clear, moral reaction, an outrage. The picture is poor, horrifying, her beautiful eyes stare hauntingly back at you above the hole that was once her nose. Some of the students couldn’t even raise their eyes to see it.
It was obvious they were experiencing deep emotions, but he said, “I wasn’t prepared for their reaction. I had expected strong aversion and condemnation of this act that happened, but that’s not what happened. Instead, they got confused. They didn’t know what to think that they, were afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation from a different culture. They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.” Another said, “it’s wrong to judge other cultures.” And he said, “I wondered how can kids who’ve been so completely immersed in the language of minority rights and the rights of the oppressed be so numb to a clear moral offense. And no matter how I tried to get them to make a judgment call, they couldn’t leave their nonjudgmental position. I was just shaking my head. It seemed clear to me that for some students, the lesson of character means acceptance of all things at all costs.”
He went on to say, “While we may have some hope that that people are capable of bridging the gap between this moral relativism, many people cannot do that. And for them, the overriding message is don’t judge, never criticize, never take a position.”
That is where we’re at in our culture today. But God also has a view of justice.
Leviticus 19:15: “Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.”
This says, don’t favor the poor or the rich. Don’t favor the people in power or the people without power. Judge people equally. Biblical justice starts with eternity in mind. It starts by seeing people the way God sees them as people of value and worth created in the image of God.
God has made us way for everyone to be saved through the work of Jesus on the cross who took our sin onto himself and paid the price for our sin. That message is our ultimate mission. We shouldn’t just feel good about ourselves by taking up the temporary causes of social justice in our world, but to fully embrace Jesus. The mission and the end goal of biblical justice is seeing lives reconciled and brought to God and eternally changed. One day God will balance all the scales. One day, there will be perfect justice carried out by a perfectly Holy and just God, who is the true judge.
God judges people’s hearts. He knows motives. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is not talking about judging between two businesses. It’s not about judging between two different countries. It’s two people who had hurt each other. This happens. We hurt each other. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally. Sometimes we hurt each other unintentionally. You’re going to be hurt. You’re going to hurt other people.
One big problem many of us have when we feel judged or we feel like we’ve been wronged by someone else is that instead of looking for the most spiritual person who can help and bring truth into the situation, we look for the least spiritually mature person, maybe even somebody outside of the church, just anybody who will agree with us to make us feel good about our side and what we’ve done. And we’ve got to ask this question when I’ve been wronged, or when I’ve wronged somebody else, “who am I going to go to? Who am I going to listen to?”
There are more important issues than just you being right.
Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers. 1 Corinthians 6:7-8
By the time it gets to the point where you’re taking this to court, you’ve already lost. You can win the battle and lose the war.
Relationships Over Rights
Author Leonard Sweet tells this story about a university chaplain at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Tom Wiles, picked him up at the airport in his new Ford pickup truck. And as he climbed into the Ford Ranger for a ride, he said, “I noticed two big scrapes on the passenger door of this beautiful truck.” He asked what happened here. And the chaplain said, well, my neighbor’s basketball post fell and left those dents. And the scars in my truck. Sweet said, “This truck is so new, I can smell the new car smell. That’s awful.” And the owner said, “What’s even worse is my neighbor doesn’t feel responsible for the damage. And Sweet asked, “Sid you contact your insurance company? How are you going to get them to pay for it?” The chaplain responded, “This has been a real spiritual journey for me. I was thinking about it hiring attorney, but it came down to this: I can either be in the right or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor. My neighbor is probably going to be around longer than my truck. So, I decided I’d rather be in a relationship then to be right. Besides, trucks are meant to be banged up. So, I got mine initiated into the real world a little bit earlier than I expected.” This is the idea that sometimes it’s better to choose the relationship and the person over the stuff and over those wrongs.
When we air our disputes in court, we end up clouding the gospel of Jesus look bad. People look at it and say, “There they go again. They can’t get along with each other.” The most important mission that we have is winning the world to Jesus.
Petty people are ugly people. There are people who’ve lost their vision. They are people who’ve turned their eyes away from what is most important and focused on the things that are truly insignificant. It’s time for us to stop being so petty. It’s time for us to refuse to live as victims because of small offenses. Pettiness leads to division, discord, disruption, and destruction in the family of God.
The enemy loves nothing more than to divide us. It may seem like just a small thing, but it can cause a big spiritual health hazard.
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. Proverbs 19:11
Refuse to be offended, be unoffendable, be hard to offend.
Remember who you are and remember who they are.
Remember, you are a Saint. Sainthood is not just for a select few, who reached some holy level as a follower of Jesus. You’re not just a sinner. You are made new.
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
He talks about sexual sin using the Greek word porneia, which just is an umbrella term that includes all sexual sin. Sexual sin is so pervasive in our culture today. He lists those who worship idols. This doesn’t mean bowing down to a little statue, but we all have temptations to worship other things. Anything we put in the place of God or before God in our lives becomes an idol. He lists those who commit adultery. Adultery is any sex outside of a committed marriage relationship between one man and one woman for life. He talks about male prostitutes. Then, he lists those who practice homosexuality, which is just general homosexual sex.
In Genesis, going all the way back to the beginning, you can read about polygamy. Genesis 16 deals with adultery. Genesis 19 deal with homosexuality. Genesis 34 deals with fornication. Genesis 38 deals with incest and prostitution. Genesis 39 deals with seduction. He’s taking sexual sin and dividing it out into all these different categories, but it’s all sexual sin. It’s all outside of God’s plan for sex.
Then Paul mentions thieves, who are people who take something that doesn’t belong to them. He talks about being greedy, wanting things. It’s materialism. I want things that don’t belong to me. And always wanting more and refusing to be satisfied with what you have. He talks about drunkards, or those who are excessively drinking alcohol. He then mentions those who are abusive, who are hurting people physically. And finally, those who are cheaters.
We tend to sanctify the people in the Bible, but they dealt with the same stuff. The culture of Corinth was messed up. All those sins were represented. But he says, that’s how you used to be.
Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11
You WERE like this, but because of Jesus, you have been changed. Made right with God by calling on the name of Jesus.
The unpardonable sin is when you reject the work of God’s Holy Spirit drawing you to Jesus Christ.
The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Because of my sin, Jesus died on the cross to pay the price, and He rose again in victory. You can be forgiven of your sin. That’s grace. We all need God’s grace. And thankfully, it is available to you, right here and right now if you turn to Him and turn from your sin. Confess your brokenness and sin.
Real change is really possible. My prayer is that we are a church full of WERE’s.
Jesus says, “You can change. I can change your heart. I can give you a whole new identity.” To not do what we think is best, but what He knows is best for you. And He will change your wanter. To want what He wants for you.
Jesus would say, “No matter what you’ve done. No matter how far you’ve run from my love, if you’re ready to run into my arms, they are open wide for you today.”