Suing or taking someone to court is a very common occurrence in our society today. However, as Christians, what guidance does the Bible provide on this topic? Should believers engage in lawsuits against others, or does Scripture advise a different approach? In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the biblical perspective on suing and bringing lawsuits, examine relevant passages, and summarize key principles for Christians to consider.
Lawsuits and other legal disputes have become ubiquitous in our culture. It’s very common for people to take someone to court if they feel they have been wronged or are owed compensation. However, for the Christian, suing raises important spiritual concerns. Does the Bible prohibit believers from filing lawsuits? Or does Scripture allow it in some circumstances?
As we examine relevant verses, several overarching biblical principles emerge:
- Christians should make every effort to resolve disputes through mediation rather than lawsuits.
- Believers should be slow to take someone to court and quick to seek reconciliation.
- While permitted in some cases, suing often reflects poorly on a Christian’s witness.
- Scripture strongly cautions against suing fellow believers.
- Prayer, humility, and patience are vital when being wronged.
- Forgiveness and grace should characterize the Christian’s response.
In this article, we will explore these principles in depth by looking at what the Bible says about suing and bringing legal action against others. We will particularly focus on verses from the New Testament, where Scripture directly comments on this topic. Along the way, we’ll summarize key points and biblical guidance that Christians should prayerfully consider when deciding if and when suing is appropriate.
Avoid Suing Others
The most consistent and dominant biblical theme regarding lawsuits is that Christians should make every effort to avoid them. Scripture encourages believers to resolve interpersonal disputes through mediation within the church, rather than through the secular court system.
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-5)
Paul is essentially saying that legal disputes between believers should be handled within the church. Going before unbelieving judges and courts to sue fellow Christians is shameful because it dishonors Christ and damages the testimony of the church.
This strong preference to avoid suing is echoed in Jesus’ teaching during the Sermon on the Mount. Speaking of those who would take a believer to court, Jesus said:
“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40)
While Jesus acknowledges that lawsuits will occur, his counsel here discourages retaliatory legal action. Rather than stand on one’s perceived rights and sue, believers should display grace that goes above and beyond the demands of the law. This includes letting go of one’s “cloak” or outer garment in addition to the “tunic” or inner garment demanded by the court.
Jesus’ approach suggests a posture of non-retaliation, showing sacrificial mercy even when wronged. As 1 Peter 3:9 instructs: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.” The apostle Paul echoes this in Romans 12:17-19:
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.”
So according to Jesus and other New Testament authors, refraining from vengeance and lawsuits best accords with kingdom values and the gospel witness believers are called to maintain.
Seek Reconciliation, Not Legal Victory
Scripture consistently directs Christians to seek reconciliation through mediation when disputes arise. The goal should be restoring relationships through grace and mutual understanding, not achieving legal victory over someone. As Romans 12:18 advises, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Paul again emphasizes careful mediation and discussion between believers when conflicts occur:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
These verses discourage immediately filing a lawsuit when wronged. A godly response is patiently seeking to resolve the matter privately first, with grace and humility. If the one who wronged you listens and repents, you have won them back as a brother or sister in Christ. This reconciled relationship is far better than a legal judgment.
Proverbs 25:8 also warns against hastily going to court: “Do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?” Rushing into a lawsuit often escalates tensions and can leave you looking foolish if you lose. So it is wise to take time and carefully weigh if legal action is necessary.
Lawsuits Reflect Poorly on Christian Witness
Although permitted in some circumstances, the way Christians engage in lawsuits significantly impacts our gospel witness. Scripture cautions believers to carefully weigh if taking legal action is prudent and glorifying to Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul gives this principle regarding gray area matters not directly forbidden in Scripture: “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”
Filing a lawsuit may be legally permissible at times, but not necessarily helpful or edifying to the church and our witness. Though we have legal rights, pressing them may not be the wisest or most Christlike approach. In 1 Corinthians 6:7, Paul chides the believers suing each other, asking skeptically: “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
Enduring mistreatment with grace often reflects the character of Christ better than insisting on one’s rights through legal force. It demonstrates we trust God for justice and seek reconciliation more than retaliation.
Proverbs 20:22 cautions as well: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” So while lawsuits can right certain wrongs, Scripture urges patience and care so that our actions ultimately point people to the grace of Christ rather than undermine our testimony.
Lawsuits Between Believers Strongly Discouraged
While the New Testament permits lawsuits under some conditions, Scripture strongly discourages believers from ever suing fellow Christians. As 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 makes abundantly clear, taking fellow believers to court rather than mediating matters within the church is a shameful failure.
Paul sees it as utterly incongruous for Christians to seek legal judgments against each other in secular courts. 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? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8)
The very fact Christians would sue one another shows something is deeply wrong in the church. So Paul urges mediation and arbitration within the Christian community when disputes arise. Secular courts should only be an absolute last resort if resolution within the church fails.
Believers also have a higher standard for settling relational conflict because we are called to extend the grace that Christ has shown us:
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
So while permitted at times, lawsuits between Christians should grieve us. They reflect spiritual immaturity and failure to apply the reconciling gospel. As in all relationships, Scripture calls believers to lead with patience, forgiveness, and grace.
Prayer and Humility Needed When Wronged
How should a Christian respond when wronged or offended in a significant way? Several verses advise bringing the matter to God first in prayer before any decisive action.
The Psalms repeatedly model crying out to God for justice when oppressed:
“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me.” (Psalm 7:1)
“O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.” (Psalm 94:3-4)
Rather than retaliate, the psalmists look to God who promises to ultimately judge justly. This requires patient faith that His timing is perfect.
Similarly, 1 Peter 3:12 reminds believers to humbly entrust themselves to God when harmed:
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
So Scripture urges prayerfully waiting on the Lord to act in His time rather than quickly pursuing legal action.
This restraint also applies to taking offense personally when we are criticized or insulted. As Proverbs 19:11 wisely advises:
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
With humility, we can consider if perceived wrongs against us may have some legitimacy we should reflect on. Either way, suing is rarely the right initial response.
Prioritize Forgiveness and Grace
Ultimately, the Bible calls Christians to emulate Jesus, who endured terrible injustice but responded with mercy.
As Colossians 3:12-13 exhorts: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.”
Rather than argue who is most at fault when wronged, believers are to lead with patience and forgiveness, just as Christ has forgiven us.
This grace reflects the heart of Jesus who prayed for God to forgive those crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). So above all, suing someone should grieve rather than gratify us. We all stand in need of mercy.
Peter also challenges believers to follow Christ’s example when suffering unjustly:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Rather than retaliation, Jesus entrusted Himself to God. This models the attitude Christians are called to display, by God’s grace.
Key Takeaways on Suing from Scripture
In summary, here are key biblical perspectives for Christians to remember regarding lawsuits and taking legal action against others:
- Believers should make every reasonable effort to resolve disputes through mediation rather than lawsuits. Christians are called to reconciliation, not retaliation.
- Scripture strongly discourages lawsuits between believers. Church arbitration should generally prevail over secular courts.
- While permitted in some cases, suing often reflects poorly on a Christian’s witness and care for others.
- If wronged, believers should pray and entrust judgment to God rather than quickly filing a lawsuit.
- Humility and patience are vital when assessing personal offense or injustice.
- Forgiveness, grace, and restoration of relationships should be prioritized over legal rights.
- Jesus responded to gross injustice with mercy. As His followers, Christians are called to a higher standard focused on redemption.
Of course, specific circumstances require careful thought and application of these principles. But in general, Scripture favors restraint and patience when considering lawsuits. As believers, reconciliation through grace should be our aim more than gaining legal victory over others. Our conduct before a watching world matters greatly.
While no easy formulas exist, prayerful meditation on God’s Word guides our steps. With the Spirit’s help, we gain the wisdom and strength to follow Jesus’ example. His transforming grace can empower Christians to endure injustice while still wisely seeking what is right and just.
In summary, the dominant biblical perspective on lawsuits is that they should be avoided if at all possible, especially with fellow believers. Scripture strongly favors patient mediation within the church and a posture of grace when wronged. Pursuing legal victory often conflicts with Christlike character and our gospel witness. While permitted on occasion, restraint from suing commends the love and mercy of our Savior in a profound way. By God’s strength, may the body of Christ pursue reconciliation above retaliation.