Can members of the LORD’s body, the church, take each other to court?
1 Corinthians 6:1-8 KJV Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
Christians have a higher law. Their lives are governed by principles not known to, or accepted by the world. As you read the following scriptures, ask yourself if worldly people would pay any attention to these commands.
Matthew 5:9-12 KJV Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matthew 5:21-22 KJV Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:23-26 KJV Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Matthew 5:27-30 KJV Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:31-32 KJV It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Matthew 5:33-37 KJV Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Matthew 5:38-41 KJV Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Matthew 5:42-48 KJV Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 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; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 7:1-5 KJV Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
It is a well-known fact that doctors and medical personnel must be careful not to reveal personal information about patients? Even employers are held to strict rules regarding employee privacy.
There might be many other situations where people have a right, according to civil law, to bring a suit against a medical person, an employer, or even a personal friend when their privacy has been breached.
As far as the world is concerned, the HIPPA laws and FERPA laws regulate our physical privacy, but who is there that will protect our spiritual privacy? What can a Christian do about malicious character assassination?
Shouldn’t preachers and elders be held to more strenuous standards when church members entrust them with personal information about events in their private lives? Should a preacher or elder spread news about sins when members have confessed and asked for help? If such privacy is disclosed, and the brother’s reputation is destroyed, what can the man or the church members do to help make peace and save that soul?
Matthew 18:21-22 KJV Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
We humans tend to assume the worst about our fellowman, but what if the man offended has determined to live above his past sins? What if he is genuinely trying not to repeat his error? Would public disclosure so discourage him that he could not lift his head in public?
While asking first one Christian and another how they felt about this issue, more than one said they would definitely feel compelled to warn everyone who might come in contact with the offender if the sin were financial dishonesty, sexual assault or pedophilia.
In one congregation we had worked with for a while, the treasurer was exposed for misappropriation of funds. We were in the mission field and knew nothing about the matter first hand, or so we thought. As it turned out someone from that congregation contacted us to ask if we had recently lost several sources of support. Sure enough, a man whom we had hired as a printer for our tracts and Bible course lessons, used to take liquor to the local postman and in return get mail and US addresses from the postman. The printer used the information he gathered from our mail to write to each of our supporters and have the money directed to himself. How did that pertain to the treasurer in the US? The men who were auditing the books realized those checks were not coming through the treasury anymore, and they assumed the treasurer was the one who had cashed them. That accusation against him was false, but as it turned out, he was proven guilty of embezzlement in other ways. That rather lengthy research exposed two men—one in the mission field and one in the US.
The treasurer in the US congregation did not confess his sin at that time. He simply decided to move his membership to another congregation. When they thought the treasurer was not in any way repentant, several men of that congregation wrote letters to us and to the new congregation to warn that he could not be trusted with financial affairs. But what if he had repented and confessed early on? No doubt he feared he would be forced to return the money, so to try to help him repent and to make peace, the men told him they were not going to demand a repayment. At that point he confessed and went forward to ask for forgiveness.
Was this situation dependent on his confession? When he tried to hide his sin, the men were still doing their best to search out the gigantic loss of funds. However, after he confessed and repented, there was no reason to talk about it anymore.
What if the treasurer had confessed right away? What if he had confessed specific sin and been forthright about what he did with the funds? Why would anyone need to spread the news farther?
Back during the Boston-Crossroad movement, there was a man who came to a congregation where we worked and of courses he had to sing better, work harder and baptize more than anyone. He was quite professional at making converts within the state prison facility. He had had experience at converting men who stood to gain the most from being released. He taught them how to stay out of trouble until they got rewards for good behavior. Then, when they were released he quite often prevailed on members of the church to invite them to stay with them in their homes until their probation time was over. Of course there was always the emotional appeal of the baptism and the “recovery” history. Many things were said that did not need to be said if the person had truly repented and wanted to leave that past behind.
I know one preacher who delights in retelling what all he gave up or left behind when he became a Christian—almost as if he is proud of those things. There seems to be no shame.
REGARDING SEXUAL SINS…
If anyone’s past includes documented sexual sins; marriage divorce and remarriage records; and such like, his history will be posted on searchable government records also HERE and HERE. An individual may warn others merely by passing along a public website.
John 8:3-9 KJV And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
SOMETHING TO PONDER FROM THE OLD LAW:
Deuteronomy 19:15-21 KJV One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. 16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. 20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. 21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Proverbs 16:32 KJV He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.