This is a serious question because it can be a sensitive topic. Not only can the topic of lawsuits be sensitive, but it is also a question of Christian morality because it has been touched upon in Scripture. So giving the correct answer is very sobering to me. I realize that answering this question comes with responsibility because when justice issues are presented, they are important. So, should Christians handle legal problems in secular courts? It’s a weighty issue when the scales of justice are deemed unbalanced.
Should Christians sue? It depends on the situation. In 1 Corinthians 6:1, Paul states, that when in a dispute with another believer, a Christian should not sue them. We cannot file a lawsuit in a secular court to decide the matter, but instead, we should be taking the matter to other believers. However, making a lawsuit against the government, companies, or other strong entities, maybe the only way to receive justice against their wrongs.
Paul goes on to say that we must bring the issue against our Christian brother to elders and church leaders, not to the government’s court. Take the dispute to wise leadership, such as pastors or denominational leadership. But he does not cover the idea of suing the government or large organizations. Let us explore this dynamic Christian topic.
Scripture on the Subject
When it comes to matters such as these, we must look to Scripture as our final authority. An excerpt from Paul’s writing on the subject proves that this issue is very important. Looking at 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 Paul says;
“When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves?… 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? 6 But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! 7 Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?”.
A Real Scenario
Someone once presented me with a personal scenario on the subject of suing a fellow believer. The scenario goes like this:
A man and his wife recently started a business with other church members. But shortly after the business had started, it had failed. The couple lost a great deal after the company ended in bankruptcy. The man explains that he and his wife had forgiven one of the business teammates who had lost the company money from honest mistakes. But another business partner on the team seemed to commit fraud and had lied to the entire team. They felt very cheated. And rightfully so.
The man’s wife is pressing to go to the authorities, while the man is trying to go to church authorities, which has gotten very little recognition.
So the real question is, what should they do?
To Sue a Fellow Believer?
You’ve been hurt. In some way, you’ve been hurt and you see it fit for recourse. And to make matters worse, the injustice has been done by a fellow believer. So what do you do?
Paul lays it clearly in 1 Corinthians chapter 6. Here are steps to keep in mind when you find yourself in this unfortunate turn of events. This is the most appropriate way for a Christian to seek justice instead of suing.
Steps to Take with a Fellow Believer:
- Go to the leadership, elders, pastors, and staff of your church. Even go to the leadership of the church’s entire denomination.
- Do not give up, keep pursuing the leadership. Reach out to them in person, or use text messages, email, and handwritten letters. Keep praying, and keep asking God for His will to be done.
- The goal is for you all to sit in a room together for dialogue, dispute, debate, and to ultimately come to an amicable resolution. This is done with the help of Godly, wise leaders. That is the goal.
- Forgive. Forgiveness is very important to God. And Paul recognizes this in his writing on lawsuits. Paul is saying that it is better to be cheated and forgive than to take the matter into your own hands. Ultimately, you must forgive.
If you choose to sue, you have lost the battle, and have been defeated. You are cheating yourself if you are not looking to God’s justice. Paul is very clear about this, as harsh as he may sound. Paul is saying that it is better to accept the injustice and to forgive the other rather than to demand a lawsuit.
This represents a picture of the kingdom of God. God forgave us even in our injustice against Him. The Lord forgave us mercifully, even forgiving our trespasses of sin, so we do the same for others.
But there is a caveat; God loves justice. He not a fan of law-breaking, illegality, or highly unethical behaviors. So, there very well might be a case to be made to the police, courts, or another governing body. The injustice is not to go unseen.
To Sue Non-Christians?
Referencing the same Scripture from 1 Corinthians 6, in verse 6, Paul highly discourages the notion of taking a brother or sister to court in the presence of unbelievers. Paul says that one day we will even rule over angels, so we should not look to a secular court and use a judge who does not even know the Lord. We are to use Godly principles and seek Godly counsel in the Church family.
We are not following the witness of God’s Kingdon when we sue, which is another reason to not sue unbelievers. If God forgave us, then we are to forgive others. By suing an unbeliever it is sending a message that there is no mercy and no forgiveness for trespasses. Jesus teaches us to pray that the Father would forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
To Sue Companies?
Lawsuits are a way to hold companies accountable, and it may be the only appropriate way to see justice met out.
God created justice, and He hates when companies tip the scales of justice. God wants the government to hold companies and individuals to be held accountable. He hates it when fraud is committed, so God will use the government to hold others accountable. At times, you may have to file a lawsuit against the government itself, as well.
If you are feeling the need to sue a company, be intentional that this injustice does not go unseen. Bring the injustice to the public, to the press, and to the authorities. These companies are not above the law, nor are they above the judgment of God.
The Lord will serve justice, but in the meantime, let the companies face what they have done. Make sure the information on the wrongdoing makes it into the right hands, such as the press or the authorities.
The Bottom Line
Be wise and pray before you file a lawsuit. Ask other Godly mentors, pastors, and leadership to help you determine what is morally correct. Be mindful of your heart’s motivation in this situation. Do not seek greed or vengeance, but justice and accountability for others.
If your motivation is to seek vengeance, then you are taking the place of God. It is written, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”. (Romans 12:19). Filing a lawsuit is not the way to have our own vengeance or to have justice. However, bringing it to the attention of the authorities is correct Christian behavior.
Justice shall be served. Righteous ethics ought to be held, but not a lawsuit. God will serve justice. Allow God’s Word to be the final authority. God will bless you immensely for your forgiveness, and He will have vengeance on those He will have vengeance. If you forgive, God will use this in your life in a powerful, and beautiful way.
The bottom line in Scripture is clear; Christians should not sue.