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Is it Okay for Christians to Sue Others?


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When someone owes us money or has taken something away from us, often courts of law are necessary to recover what was lost. However, is it okay for Christians to sue others?

A successful lawsuit may certainly solve your problem, but is it sinful to sue? And what about lawsuits involving the well-being of others?

First, let's look at what Paul says about suing fellow believers.


What Paul Says about Christians Suing Christians

Paul is very clear about what he thinks about Christians suing Christians. "Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?" (1 Corinthians 6:1 WEB)

According to Paul, if there is an issue that needs to be resolved, he argues that the Church should resolve the issue.

"I say this to move you to shame. What, can't there be one wise man among you who will be able to decide between his brothers." (1 Corinthians 6:5 WEB)

However, he says that ultimately it would be better to be wronged by someone else than to coerce them into complying: "Therefore it is already altogether a defect in you, that you have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? No, but you yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that against your brothers." (1 Corinthians 6:7-8 WEB)

However, Paul is speaking about Christians suing Christians. What about Christians suing non-Christians?

To answer this question, we can look at what Jesus says about this subject.


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What Jesus Says about Lawsuits Against Others

Jesus makes it clear how to deal with those who steal from us: "Give to everyone who asks you, and don't ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again." (Luke 6:30 WEB)

Jesus then explains why:

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful." (Luke 6:32-36 WEB)

However, it is important to explain that Jesus is talking about people stealing material goods from us, or otherwise sinning against us.

If a lawsuit involves the well-being of someone else, legal action may be warranted. There are situations, where legal action is appropriate, such as custody over children in the event that the current guardian is negligent or abusive, or something like a prosecution against a murderer.

God is a God of Justice, and he desires justice.

"Therefore turn to your God. Keep kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually." (Hosea 12:6 WEB)

God does not desire that we pursue justice for ourselves, especially for the sake of revenge. "Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, 'Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19 WEB)

However, the Bible is clear how God feels about remaining silent while injustice is done:

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, And serve justice to the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:9 WEB)

"Learn to do well. Seek justice, Relieve the oppressed, Judge the fatherless, Plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17 WEB)

"If anyone sins, in that he hears the voice of adjuration, he being a witness, whether he has seen or known, if he doesn't report it, then he shall bear his iniquity." (Leviticus 5:1 WEB)

"To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17 WEB)

As taught in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, God wants us to be merciful towards others as he is merciful towards us. However, while God desires that we allow Him to pursue justice for ourselves, he likewise desires that we pursue justice on behalf of others.


What about Abuse?

Jesus does say, "To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other; and from him who takes away your cloak, don't withhold your coat also." (Luke 6:29 WEB)

However, this does not mean we should subject ourselves to abuse from others. God is by no means saying that we are to allow others to repeatedly abuse us for the sake of mercy. That would be similar to what Paul says about sinning, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be!" (Romans 6:1-2 WEB)

Likewise, there is no reason why we shouldn't attempt to avoid abuse. Paul would say, "Shall we continue to place ourselves in abusive situations for the sake of forgiveness? Absolutely not!"


What about Removing Evil People from Our Lives?

If we know someone is abusive, or otherwise evil, would we choose to have them in our lives?

Would you choose to have a murderer or child abuser in your life?

Most people would agree on the answer to these questions. And certainly, according to the Bible, we should not spend time with such people, as Paul says, "But as it is, I wrote to you not to keep company, if any man who is named a brother is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Don't even eat with such a person." (1 Corinthians 5:11 WEB)

Paul also says, "Don't be deceived! 'Evil companionships corrupt good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33 WEB)

However, what happens when we know someone first, and then later discover they are evil? This is the point where many people become unwilling to remove them from their lives, feeling as if they are somehow doing something wrong. This is especially true when the person is a family member, or if it is someone we have been romantically involved with. Some people feel like it is their responsibility to deal with this person. Furthermore, sometimes evil people are "nice" and "respectful" and have the appearance of a good person, but are inwardly evil.

Paul describes such people as, "...having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV)

Contrary to what some assume, it is wrong to keep such people in your life, and you should immediately remove them from your life.

Jesus says, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn't worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37 WEB)

Yet when we choose to keep an evil person in our lives, we are essentially loving them more than Jesus. Or, we are under the delusion that it would be against God's will to do so, which the Bible clearly is against.


Christians and Lawsuits

According to Jesus, it is not okay for Christians to sue anyone in order to reclaim money or something stolen. Likewise, we are not to retaliate against abusers in a similar fashion for our own sake.

In Matthew 5:39, when Jesus says, "But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also." (WEB) He is not making this statement in order to say that we are to allow ourselves to be abused. Instead, he is making this statement as an opposition to the old saying of, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'" (Matthew 5:38 WEB)

Rather than retaliating in similar fashion, Jesus is saying to not retaliate by striking them back. However, keeping such people in our lives is wrong and God does desire justice.

But he wants us to leave justice in His hands when it involves ourselves. When it involves others, we are expected to seek justice on their behalf. "Learn to do well. Seek justice, Relieve the oppressed, Judge the fatherless, Plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17 WEB)

If seeking such justice on behalf of others does involve a lawsuit, then it is acceptable.


Verse of the Week

"To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17 WEB)

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