GRACE & PEACE
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Controversy, Part 17
In our litigious society, it is hard to keep conflict within the Church from spilling over into the civil realm. In some cases, it may be impossible. How are we to understand this? What are we to do? The place we immediately turn (and rightly) is to Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7. But we have to look at this carefully lest we wind up disobeying
the passage in the name of honoring it. Too often we are like a fool sent on an errand before he gets his instructions straight. First, Paul is not embarrassed because believers wind up in a dispute in a civil court. The problem is that it is before an unbelieving court (v. 6). Rather than do that, Paul argues that the Church should establish an alternative court system rather than air dirty linen in front of the unbelievers (vv. 4-5).
Further, they should not press their own rights in this matter. Rather than take someone to court in front of unbelievers, we should prefer to be defrauded. Let it go (v. 7).
But this solves only half our problems. What about members of the covenant who are out of control, and who insist on bringing the godly before an unbelieving court? Reasoning by analogy from the passage above, even here we should make every effort in good conscience to settle out of court, even to the point of suffering loss. But in this scenario, what
happens is not up to us. When the rebellious are taking the initiative, the godly cannot dictate to them what they shall and shall not do. The covenant members of the Sanhedrin brought the Lord of the covenant before unbelieving Pilate. The hateful Jewish leaders of Achaia brought the apostle Paul before the Roman deputy Gallio (Acts 18:12-17). And Paul was just getting ready to open his defense when Gallio, who cared for none of these things, threw the case out of court.