Saturday, October 24, 2009

CHRISTIAN LAWSUIT by Dr. Paul Nah

Professor Dr. Paul Nah is a Retired Lecturer. He was an Associate Professor in the University of Malaya.
He spends his time doing research and studying on topics that are affecting churches today in Malaysia. This is his view after going through the following 27 Articles written by different individuals.

A REVIEW OF 27 ARTICLES
References:
1. A Manual on Christian Conflict Resolution, Wong K K. 2. Christians and Lawsuits, G. O. Wood, Superintendent, AOG, USA. 3. INAPPROPRIATE LEGAL ACTIONS by D. Goins 4. 1 Cor 6:1-11 by D. Chadwell 5. 1 Cor 6 – No Shield for Lawbreakers, W. JACKSON. 6. Exegetical Paper/1 Corinthians 6 1-8 7. Litigation between Brethren, W. W. Blue 8. 1 Cor 6:1-11, An Exegetical Study 9. 1 Cor 6 “Scriptural Litigation 10. 1 Cor 6:1-11, Dealing With Spiritual Immaturity, G. DeLashmutt. 11. 1 Cor - "Revelation Or Litigation? Pastor D. Legge 12. CHRISTIANS AND LAWSUITS "TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT" by Matthew Tozer 13. Christians and Lawsuits 14. What is your view of lawsuits between Christians? 15. Christians and Lawsuits 16. W. Nee on Christians Filing Lawsuits 17. Should Christians Sue in Court? M. Fairchild 18. 1 Cor 6:1-11 - Avoiding Lawsuits with Christians 19. How to Resolve Legal Issues Biblically, T. Morgan, 20. When Do You Need to See a Lawyer? Crown Financial Ministries 22. When Can Christians Sue? R. Ross 23. Opinion: should Christians sue? L. Burkett 24. AN EXPOSITION OF 1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6. C. Hodge 25. Adam Clarke Commentary, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 23. 26. Joseph Beet Commentary: SOME OF THEM GO TO LAW, AND THAT BEFORE UNBELIEVER 27. 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 6:1-11 24. Law and Justice in New Testament Times, J. R. Albrektson.

Ways of resolving Christian disputes:
1. Love & Forgive Matthew 5:44 – 48, 18:21-22
2. Suffer wrong & bear cost. 1Corinthians 6:7, Matthew 5:39 – 42
3. Christian Mediation Matthew 18: 15 – 17
4. The Corinthian Christian Lawsuit. 4. 1Corinthians. 6: 1 – 8
5. Paul’s acceptance of the Roman Govt as established by God 5, Romans 13: 1 – 5
6. Paul appealed to the Roman Legal system to for justice, Acts 16: 37-39, 22:25, 25:11

1. Love & Forgive Matthew 5:44 – 48, 18:21-22
Christians are often badgered by pastors into believing that Christian disputes can only be resolved by loving and forgiving the perpetrator. However the truth is, if Christian love is to be a healthy one it must be balanced by firm discipline. Many remember Jesus as sweet and mild, forgetting that once He used the whip to clear in His Father’s temple of the many thieves and robbers lurking there.

Just L-O-O-O-V-E and FORGIVE even our enemies? (Mat 5:44.)
Why don’t we heed the advice of Dr. James Dobson, a famous Family Life teacher and Personal Advisor on American Family to the President of the USA and author of the widely-read book entitled “Love and Discipline” where he strongly recommended that we should ALWAYS BALANCE LOVE WITH DISCIPLINE in the bringing up of our children.

What does God have to say about this?
“....Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child." (Heb 12:6)
"But if you are WITHOUT CHASTISEMENT… then you are BASTARDS and not sons." (Heb 12:8 MKJV)

Dr Richard D. Dobbins, a Christian Psychologist and Family Life Teacher has this to say – “if you ONLY love your child you will end up with a spoilt person whom nobody likes. If you JUST DISCIPLINE you will get a person who cannot love himself.”

2. HOW MUCH SUFFERING OF WRONG MUST WE BEAR ?
“But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, LET HIM SLAP YOU LEFT CHEEK ALSO. And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, LET HIM HAVE YOUR COAT ALSO. And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, CARRY IT TWO MILES.” (Mat 5: 39 – 42)

Note that cost demanded in the three situations are ALL quite small – a slap, a coat, a mile (and some pride.) They are affordable or manageable so you can live with it. What if you can’t afford the demands e.g someone defrauds you of RM One million or all of your life’s saving and you are already 70 years old. Are you going to forgive and forget? Can you?? You would be most stupid not to go to court! Furthermore, by bringing that person to court you are protecting another Christian of a possible fraud.

So THE PRINCIPLE IS: if you can AFFORD it, then overlook the matter and move on with your life. If you can’t then don’t feel guilty by 1 Cor 6, if you have to go to court.

Furthermore, in 2 COR 11: 19 & 20 PAUL REBUKED the Corinthians for allowing false teachers to SLAP THEM ON THEIR FACE.


3. CHRISTIAN MEDIATION
“But if your brother shall trespass against you, (first) go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, (second) take one or two more with you, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established and if he shall neglect to hear them, (third) tell it to the church. But if he neglects to hear the church, (fourth or lastly) let him be to you as a heathen and a tax-collector.” (Mat 18: 15–17)

Once the church has been consulted and there is no admission of guilt then we are asked to treat the brother as a heathen and a tax-collector. This means we can now take the person to the SECULAR LAW COURT because all avenues have already been exhausted (Wong Kim Kong, Advisor, NECF & George O. Wood, Surperintendent, AOG Council, Misouri. USA)


4. THE "1 COR 6: 1 – 8" LIABILITY.
I describe this as a liability because it often read in such a shallow fashion that impression it gives is that Paul is against Christians going to the secular law court. NOTHING IS FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. Let’s read through 1 COR 6: 1 – 8.

v1 - If any of you have a dispute with another Christian, how dare you go before heathen judges instead of letting God's people settle the matter?
v2 - Don't you know that God's people will judge the world? Well, then, if you are to judge the world, aren't you capable of judging small matters?
v3 - Do you not know that we shall judge the angels? How much more, then, the things of this life!
v4 - If such matters come up, are you going to take them to be settled by people who have no standing in the church?
v5 - Shame on you! Surely there is at least one wise person in your fellowship who can settle a dispute between fellow Christians.
v6 - Instead, one Christian goes to court against another and lets unbelievers judge the case!

v7 - The very fact that you have legal disputes among yourselves shows that you have failed completely. Would it not be better for you to be wronged? Would it not be better for you to be robbed?
v8 - Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

Background of the Corinthian church.
The Corinthians were extremely immature and carnal (1Cor 3:1,2). Disputes resulted in the church being divided into at least four factions (1 Cor 1:12). They indulged in all sorts of sins including sexual sins and cheating one another (1Cor 5:11). From their behaviour you could barely distinguish them from a non-believer!

Now, lets go to verse 1 of 1Cor 6.
It states clearly that the Corinthian Christians were settling their disputes before heathen judges instead of coming before their fellow Christians in the church. The disputes that were generally trivial - in different translations given as a matter, a complain, and in 1Cor 6:2 as insignificant cases (GW, ISV), smallest matters (ASV, KJV, MKJV, GNB), small problems (CEV), small judgments (LITV). The disputes didn’t really require them to go to the secular courts.

But why couldn’t they resolve it within the church? It likely that they were so divided, into at least four factions (1Cor 1:12), that it becomes impossible to find someone who could be a neutral mediator. So by going to the secular judges an even more horrendous predicament resulted - a shameful Christian testimony before the heathen Judges and all the many non-believers who attended the law courts. The very people whom the Corinthian Christians were supposed to reach with the gospel were the very people they were scrambling to get help to resolve their PETTY PROBLEMS. The Corinthian Christians failed miserably in their CHRISTIAN MISSION!
Can you now understand why Paul was so angry that he used words like “how dare you?’ (1Cor 6:1) and “shame on you” (1Cor 6:5), However, Paul’s strong emotional reaction was NOT DIRECTED AT THE CORINTHIANS GOING TO THE LAW COURTS but to the FAILURE OF THE CHRISTIAN MISSION. Furthermore the disputes were SO TRIVIAL!

Wong Kim Kong, Advisor, NECF, in his article “CHRISTIAN CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND LITIGATION” says PAUL in 1Cor 6:1-11 IS NOT CONDEMNING the secular law courts. In another part he states “There may be times when Christians could morally use legal opportunities”.

George O. Wood, Superintendent, Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri, USA., in his article “Christians and Lawsuits” said Paul never addressed the theme of whether a lawsuit would be appropriate once the church had declared a party to be a "pagan and a tax collector.“ (Mat 18:15 – 17) Perhaps such would be permitted under the teaching of Rom 13:1–5 that the secular government exists to uphold justice and to prevent lawlessness.


5. IF WE GO TO COURT TODAY WILL IT BE VERY DAMAGING TO OUR CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY?
CHURCH-RELATED DISPUTES and some SELECTIVE CIVIL CASES should be settled through CHURCH MEDIATION by Godly Christian leaders. (If the church cannot settle it, the dispute may have to be referred to the LAW COURTS because there is no other recourse).

ALL OTHER CIVIL CASES and ALL CRIMINAL CASES are REQUIRED BY LAW to be settled in the LAW COURTS. Christians have no choice here even if it brings about a bad testimony.

So in answer to the question, IF WE GO TO COURT TODAY WILL IT BE VERY DAMAGING TO OUR CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY, the answer is IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE! Christians who have to go to the law courts will have to go to the law courts.


6. GOD’S REPUTAION IS OF LESSER IMPORTANCE TO HIM THAN HIS DESIRE FOR HIS PEOPLE TO LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY.
In 2 Chronicles 36:11 …17 recorded that Zedekiah, King of Judah :
1. Sinned against the LORD
2. Stubbornly refused to repent
3. Caused the people to sin.
So the LORD brought the King of Babylonia to attack the Israelites.

God’s people were totally defeated by the Babylonians. Isn’t that a BAD TESTIMONY FOR GOD?

The Babylonians could then say their gods were greater than the Almighty God of Israel. Isn’t that a BAD TESTIMONY FOR GOD?

BUT WHO BROUGHT THE KING OF BABYLONIA TO ATTACK ISRAEL? GOD HIMSELF !
What is God trying to tell us?God’s reputation is important to Him
BUT MORE IMPORTANT IS THAT WE LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY BEFORE HIM!

Some Christians express concern that going to the Law Court will be a bad Christian testimony.
HOWEVER, THE TIME TO BE CONCERN ABOUT BAD CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY IS ALREADY PAST.
THE BAD CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY IS ALREADY KNOWN WORLDWIDE.
WHAT THE WORLD IS NOW WAITING FOR IS, TO SEE WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT !
IF A CRIMINAL OFFENSE HAS BEEN COMMITTED, DO WE HAVE THE GUMPTION TO MAKE OR BRING THE CASE TO COURT? THAT IS A GOOD CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY !
OR ARE WE GOING TO JUST SWEEP IT UNDER THE CARPET? – WHICH WILL BE A HORRENDOUSLY BAD TESTIMONY !

“For the time has come that JUDGEMENT must begin in the HOUSE OF GOD” (1 Pet 4:17)


7. PAUL SAYS CHRISTIANS SHOULD SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO THE ROMAN (SECULAR) LEGAL SYSTEM (Romans 13: 1 -7)
"EVERYONE MUST OBEY state authorities, because NO AUTHORITIES EXIST WITHOUT GOD’S PERMISSION, and the EXISTING AUTHORITIES have been PUT THERE BY GOD." (Rom 13:1) This clearly states that we must subject ourselves to the Secular Law Courts as Paul subjected himself to the Roman Secular Legal System.


8. PAUL HIMSELF APPEALED TO THE ROMAN LAW TO GET JUSTICE
In Acts 16, Paul and Silus were thrown into jail for casting out a demon from a slave-girl. They were publicly beaten and thrown into jail. They prayed and sang hymns and an earthquake occurred that led to the salvation of the jailer. Later in Acts 16:37, PAUL TOLD THE GUARDS, "… WE’RE ROMAN CITIZENS”.

“When the Roman officials heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, THEY WERE AFRAID." (Acts 16:38 – 39) So the officials went to the jail and APOLOGISED to Paul and Silas.”
We can see here how Paul, because of his understanding of Roman (secular) Law was able to bring the Roman Officials to near submission! There are two other examples of Paul using the Roman Legal System to seek justice for himself, Acts 22:15 – 19 and 25: 9 -11.

IF, THEREFORE, PAUL COULD SEEK JUSTICE FROM THE ROMAN LEGAL SYSTEM IN HIS TIME, THEN WHY CAN’T CHRISTIANS DO THE SAME THING FROM THE MALAYSIAN LEGAL SYSTEM TODAY?


IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS TO APPRECIATE CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MALAYSIAN LEGAL SYSTEM IN ORDER TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT IT CAN OFFER:

1. They are religiously neutral. It has nothing to do with the Syariah Court.

2. They carry out their functions with high professionalism.

3. The Malaysian Legal System is based on English Law which has its roots in the Biblical Teachings. It is totally separate from the Syariah Laws.

4. It is compulsory for ALL Criminal and many Civil cases to go to court whether or not you like it as a Christian.

5. The proceeding are quite private and unlikely to give rise to bad publicity. In the past several years there have been at least about 5 cases of “church members vs pastors” lawsuits that were brought to the attention of the Malaysians Courts and practically no one knew anything about them. Furthermore, they did not attract any media attention whatsoever.

4 comments:

No More Intimidation said...

Thank you Berita Calvary for this very useful and informative article.

BOD and church leaders have been throwing 1 Cor 6 to many members to frighten them off about taking legal action against the church leadership.

It is not an immunity shield for them to flash out against members. If there is no wrong doing then why be so defensive? If there is wrong doings and yet CC leaders don't want to do anything then members have been wronged and we should seek the courts' help to clear the matter.

As Christians we cannot allow lawlessness and exploitation of members in the church... if so we would be even worst off than non believers. Even meetings of secular associations and societies are more well behaved and conducted! How can we be the salt and light of the world then?

Let us be bold and courageous and not be intimidated by wrong and selective interpretation of Scriptures! For their own agenda and reasons and to save their own skins..

Members must stand up for their rights just as Paul did in his days!

Matthew Tozer said...

Your article was insightful. You cited an article written by me. Your article and others I have read recently encouraged me to modify my article to address the viewpoint that, when a fellow Christian REFUSES to submit to a Christian resolution process, that the wronged Christian may, as a LAST resort, sue another Christian in a secular court of law.

Calvary Today said...

Matthew B. Tozer is a Christian attorney located in southern California.

The article that was referred to him above is: CHRISTIANS AND LAWSUITS,
"TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT"

You can read his full article here:

http://www.christian-attorney.net/christians_lawsuits.html

Tan said...

The secular Legal system is also blessed by God. Legal interpretation on the CC constitution can be obtained through the professioal secular Law court.Let's Fast and Pray for Wisdom,Revelation,Peace & Tranquility to prevail in our secular Law courts to resolve the matters amicably.Believe for the Lord of Hosts to move in our midst.