Should A Christian Sue?

Is it right to take another person to court. What if that person is a believer. These may be issues that you have strong opinions about. However, stop and ask yourself: What is the biblical basis for my opinion.

First of all, there is nothing inherently evil about the courts. In fact, they are ordained by God. Deuteronomy 25:1 states, "When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty." In the book of Judges, Deborah held court under a palm tree and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. Judges 4:5.

What bothers many people are jury verdicts which seem to greatly exceed the value of an injured party's damages. This is quite understandable. The Bible speaks of compensating a person for their loss. In Exodus 21:18-19, when one man struck another, the injured man was to recover for his loss of time. The man striking the blow was also to see to it that the injured man was completely healed. Likewise, in Exodus 21:22, if men who were fighting struck a pregnant woman and she gave birth prematurely but without serious injury, the offender had to pay a fine in the amount the woman's husband demanded and the court allowed. In another passage in Exodus, a servant was allowed to go free if his master knocked out his tooth. This was to compensate the servant for the loss of his tooth. Exodus 21:27.

Similar principles of compensation are present in a personal injury claim. Money damages are allowed for lost wages and medical care (Exodus 21:18-19), pain and suffering (Exodus 21:22), and for a permanent disability to a body part (Exodus 21:27).

A person should try to settle his claim before a lawsuit is filed. Jesus said that we should settle with an adversary on the way to court. Matthew 5:25. In Proverbs, we are warned against bringing a matter to court hastily. Proverbs 25:8. This is good advice since lawsuits can rob us of our peace (Proverbs 29:9).

We should also consider the emotional and financial cost of a lawsuit before litigation ever begins. Luke 14:31-32. Therefore, an out of court settlement of a dispute, providing reasonable compensation to an injured party, should be the primary objective.

What happens if one Christian has a claim against a fellow Christian. Suppose a Christian contractor performed work on a brother Christian's house, but that brother later refused to pay the bill. Without this money, this Christian contractor might not be able to pay his employees and the expenses necessary to support his family.

A quick answer would be to say that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not allow lawsuits against believers. However, verses 4 and 5 of that passage suggest referring the matter to a church member to resolve the dispute. This is the concept of Christian arbitration. The biblical steps are set out in Matthew 18:15-17. Jesus states that if a brother sins against you, you are to show him his fault between just the two of you. If he doesn't listen, take one or two persons with you. If this brother refuses to listen to them, the matter is to be referred to the church. However, if he refuses to listen to the church, you are to treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (i.e., a nonbeliever). The bottom line is that you can take a Christian to court if he refuses to have the matter resolved by a Christian or the church.

God has established courts as a last resort to resolve disputes. However, settling the matter without litigation should be our primary goal.

This article was published in the St. Louis MetroVoice and may only be reprinted with its permission and the permission of author Robert D. Arb.