I have been blessed by having little to do with courts and legal action over the years. However, I have recently realised that as a Christian minister providing support to many and varied people I need to think through some of the issues relevant to legalities and court processes.
I expect that in the years ahead I will assist people facing legal cases they have been dragged into. Many of those people will be ignorant of legal process and the issues involved, just has I have been.
The thoughts outlined here are just ramblings of someone coming to terms with practical, scriptural and personal issues that might impact people who are taken to court, even by their former friends, family or others.
How To Live
Christ and the Holy Scriptures instruct us to be in honour with all, live peaceably with them, agree with them, let our Yea be Yea, love our enemies, be like God who sends rain on the just and the unjust, etc.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44,45
“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” Romans 12:14
“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:17,18
“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.” Matthew 5:25
From what I see in the Scriptures, when someone has an issue with me they have the problem and issue, not me. They have something to resolve internally, which may involve external events.
If they think I owe them a debt, then their concern or issue can be resolved by a simple accounting entry, to write off the debt, sell the debt, forgive the debt, turn the sale into a gift, etc.
This isn’t to say that I want to do wrong and get off without accountability, but often a perceived debt or offence is not real. The person who feels offended, cheated, taken advantage of or otherwise wronged may not have been wronged at all.
Have you noticed that in legal wrangles both parties end up deeply aggrieved with the other. The whole situation becomes adversarial, painful and offensive. Some people press claims that are not founded on reality, yet they get deeply enmeshed in all the pain and agitation of that case, despite their own error in perceiving fault where it does not exist.
When people operate out of a context of grace all the tension and wrangling which springs from the anxieties of a person with wrong thinking are dissolved and everyone is happier for it.
Bless or Win
Picking up the command of Christ that we love our enemies and bless those who curse us we see that Christians are to be a blessing and to look to help others, such as by being a resource, one who gives value to others (a creditor), or a prosperous one who is a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Most people do not see themselves as a source of blessing and do not seek the context in which they can be a blessing. Instead they are led to believe that if someone else wins, they must have lost. They do not seek win-win, but win-lose contexts, and they fear being at the losing end.
This win-lose hardness of heart attitude leads some contentions people to prefer that everyone loses rather than being the loser themselves. They cannot suffer loss, give grace, forgive the offender, or have a generous spirit toward others. In some cases people have been known to destroy something rather than allow their adversary to have it, even though it lawfully belongs to the other person.
Before Getting To Court
Before anyone gets to court there are heart issues that come to the fore. Anger, offence, resentment, unforgiveness, jealousy, hardness of heart, contempt, and similar adversarial attitudes tend to lead people to court, either to press a case or to fight with all their might against an adversary.
Consider this challenging question from the Apostle Paul writing to the Greek church in Corinth about their track record of taking one another to court.
“Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because you go to law one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” 1Corinthians 6:7
Initiating legal action means that Christians have chosen to take a hard hearted attitude toward others, rather than accepting the loss and getting on with life. Paul suggests that Christians should accept that they have been wronged by their Christian brothers, forgive and get on with life, rather than taking the matter to court.
I am not giving any advice here. I am simply raking over some things the Bible says about going to court and pressing legal cases. I am trying to think things through. Maybe you would like to add a comment to this post, with your own observations or questions.