Going To Court

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.

gavel-judge

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

Aggrieved People

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.

Jacob DeShazer Bombs Japan then Evangelises Japan

Jacob Daniel DeShazer was born in West Stayton, Oregon on November 15 in 1912, not long before World War One. He was to become a famous name in the next World War.

The son of a Free Methodist preacher, Jacob was raised in church but strayed from the faith in his high school years. In 1940 he enlisted in the US air force and trained as a bombardier.

April 18, 1942 DeShazer flew as a bombardier on a B-25 bomber with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s “Doolittle Raiders”, in the first air attack on Japan in World War II.

On the way back from that raid the B-25, on which he was bombardier, ran out of fuel and was one of two planes that did not make it home. The crew bailed out over enemy occupied territory, and were taken prisoners.

As DeShazer was parachuting from his plane his mother woke with a sense of falling and prayed earnestly, not knowing anything of the raid, or of her son’s danger. When she felt at peace, she went back to sleep. Meanwhile, as the young airman plunged toward the ground, DeShazer thought it would be “dishonest” to pray. So he didn’t. He had not kept up a walk with God and didn’t think he had the right to call on God’s help.

Regarded as “war criminals”, rather than POW’s, the men were harshly treated and beaten. Three of DeShazer’s buddies were shot before a firing squad. Of DeShazer’s 40 months as a prisoner, he spent 36 in solitary confinement. Another member of crew starved to death, but not before witnessing to DeShazer.

In May, 1944, after two years’ imprisonment, some small concessions were given to the men and so DeShazer asked a guard for a Bible. He devoured the Bible, reading it through multiple times and searching out the fulfilment of every prophecy that he found. He was determined to find out it the Bible was what it was claimed to be.

He not only found the Bible to be all he hoped it could be, but he also found salvation through Christ, reading Romans 10:9 on 8 June, 1944. Then, as he made his solitary journey into faith, based only on the Word of God, he was challenged to live out Christ’s teachings, starting with the command to “love your enemies”. He began being friendly to the cruellest guard. Within days the man’s attitude toward him changed.

Tutored only by the Word and the Spirit, harvesting the godly training of his childhood, DeShazer grew in faith and accepted God’s call to reach out to the Japanese. He recalls, “When I was a prisoner, I was afraid I was going to die and I told God ‘I don’t want to go up there with empty hands; I want to do something for Jesus.”

On 20 August, 1945, the war ended. Before long, DeShazer was re-united with his family and then, at the age of 34, he entered Seattle Pacific (Bible) College to train for missionary service. And the field? Japan.

DeShazer married Florence, a fellow Bible College student, and headed to Japan for 30 years of effective ministry. Before arriving in Japan DeShazer wrote a tract titled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”, which told his story. It was translated into Japanese and widely distributed.

General MacArthur had told the Japanese that they ought to be Christians. This opened the door for Christian preaching. When the Japanese Emperor told the Japanese that he was not divine, in 1946, this lead to tremendous instability in many Japanese lives (and suicide as well), which, compounded by their defeat, gave great opportunity for the gospel. It is estimated there were 30,000 conversions during DeShazer’s first year in Japan.

The most notary convert to come from DeShazer’s testimony was Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941. After reading “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” Fuchida studied the Bible, became a Christian and spent the rest of his life as a missionary.

The 1972 edition of DeShazer’s biography contains a photo of DeShazer and his wife, just before their third furlough. “I love these beautiful Japanese people so much” he is quoted as saying. “They all look beautiful to me. They need Jesus.”

DeShazer passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 15, 2008, at the age of 95.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.