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Does the Bible say anything about lawsuits / suing?

For the sake of clarity, it must be stated that criminal matters should be handled by civil authorities. Reticence about civil lawsuits does not extend to matters in which a person endangers others. This is not to say that if a crime is perpetrated against you, you must always press charges. But it is to say that Christians should not harbor or enable criminal activity, including by refusal to entrust the matter to the appropriate legal authorities. Part of loving others well is willingness to see them held accountable and proper action to protect society at large. The Bible's directives about lawsuits are not intended to enable Christians or churches to cover up instances of abuse. The article below is in relation to matters of civil dispute, not those in which criminal activity is present.

The Bible offers us steps for reconciliation when believers experience conflict or disunion (Matthew 18:15–17). Jesus tells us to go directly to the person who we perceive has wronged us, and if reconciliation does not happen, additional steps are prescribed.

Paul specifically and strongly counsels against Christians taking other Christians to court (1 Corinthians 6:1–8). He writes that there are other Christians who can help settle disputes; and if that doesn't work, then it would be better for a Christian to simply walk away from the matter rather than extend the dispute publicly. He writes, "To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (1 Corinthians 6:7).

The idea here is that believers are supposed to be different from the world. We are supposed to seek to live godly lives in which we love one another well. We should seek one another's good and also be forgiving of each other when we fail. Bringing our disputes into the public sphere would seem to demonstrate that we are no different from the world. Also, in civil disputes we become subject to the civil law, which may or may not honor God's ways. Instead, we should resolve our disputes with one another, looking to the truth in God's Word and seeking the Holy Spirit's wisdom and help in bringing resolution and restoring unity.

Some theologians argue that 1 Corinthians 6 is applicable only in disputes with the church and that Paul makes no prohibition for court action in regard to disputes that happen with others (Christians or not) outside the church. In essence, matters pertaining to the church should be handled by the church, not taken to civil authorities. But matters related to civil law can be handled by the civil legal system.

Paul used the civil law to his favor. Acts 21—22 records how some non-believing Jews from Asia stirred up the people in Jerusalem against Paul so much so that the people sought to kill him. Roman soldiers removed Paul from the situation and took him toward the barracks. But Paul requested an opportunity to speak to the people, which they granted. Paul's speech served to stir the people up again, and the Roman tribune ordered that Paul be examined by flogging. But when he was stretched out for the whips, Paul mentioned that he was a Roman citizen and questioned whether it was legal for him to be flogged without undergoing trial. Paul saw it acceptable to use the legal system to assert his personal rights and protect himself. However, it should be pointed out that Paul was dealing with people who were not believers.

There is no blanket admonishment against ever using civil courts. The Bible sets a very high bar for when court action is justified: never over church matters and rarely outside of church with civil matters between two believers. It is best to resolve disputes without court involvement if possible, especially when the dispute is between two believers. But it is not wrong to pursue legal action to protect our rights.

Whatever the situation may be, we can pray to God for wisdom (James 1:5). Continue to search His Word and seek the counsel of mature believers.


Related Truth:

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

What is the line between helping someone and someone taking advantage of you?

Why should we forgive?

Are Christians subject to the laws of the land?

How can a Christian be an ambassador for Christ?


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