Vol.XI No.VIII Pg.3
October 1974

A Forgotten Alternative

Dan S. Shipley

In dealing with the problem of lawsuits between Christians Paul introduces two alternatives to seeking litigation in pagan courts. First, if disputes between brethren deteriorate to the point of requiring arbitration, let them be judged by saints (1 Cor. 6:1-5). After shaming the Corinthians for not having done this, Paul confronts them with an incriminating question: "What, cannot there be found among you one wise man who shall be able to decide between his brethren .... ?" (vs. 5). Not that this wise brother was well versed in civil law, but that he knew and reverenced a higher law, the divine law by which he continually renders judgments concerning all matters of life. Judges render verdicts in keeping with law. Why would those who have committed themselves to the observance of a better law willingly submit to judgments based on an inferior law? Doing so surely reveals defect (vs. 7).

The second alternative and the one with which we are primarily concerned here is considered by many to be the court of last resort — that is, if considered at all. Paul states it like this: "Why not take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (vs. 7). Yes, even when you know you have been mistreated, even defrauded, there are times when staying right with God means suffering wrong from men. It is better to take wrong than to do wrong (1 PE. 3:17). In this case, lawsuits between Christians is the wrong under consideration; even the winner loses in such litigation. Better suffer the wrong than to sin is the principle — a principle needing application to other problems as well. For instance, taking wrong is better than seeking revenge. "Getting even" has a way of becoming a demon-like obsession which begets many sins. Remembering and rehearsing our ill-treatment makes it grow all out of proportion in our own minds. We must be vindicated, we feel — a feeling prompted mostly by pride. God says that Christians are not to pay back evil with evil (ROM.12:17). "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord." (ROM. 12:19). So, take the wrong and leave it to the Lord to settle the accounts. No wrongdoer will escape His judgment, yours included.

But taking wrong is more than just refraining from vindictive acts. As Lenski puts it, "Simply to suffer the wrong, the injustice, or the injury does not occur to many Christians. The least they do is to set up a loud complaint and then continue complaining and ill will. To forgive at once and to forget so thoroughly as to make no complaint at any time, is an unknown ethical practice even to brethren who think they are wise, well read in the Scriptures and rather advanced Christians." (Interp. of 1 COR., p. 245. Emp. mine, dss) Jesus taught this positive side of taking wrong: "Do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you" (LUK. 6:27,28). This is not a code for cowards; it neither excuses nor encourages the wrongdoer. Being right means rightly taking wrong as did our great Example (1 PE. 2:21-24) .