I love capitalism. I am one of those red blooded Americans that see the benefits and liberty of capitalism. It has its faults but I believe it is better than any alternative in a totally depraved world that has humans living in it. Some may fear and object to it saying that it frees people to be greedy. Which is true but let’s face it, people will be greedy no matter what because of the human heart, not because of capitalism. It also frees people to have liberty and create opportunities to not only help themselves but help others. Where other economic systems force everyone to finish a race at the same time (usually whenever the slowest is able to finish it) capitalism provides the freedom for everyone to start the race at the same time. They are free to give out of the abundance of their profit and grace. However it may seem that when it comes to acquiring wealth, when it is under assault and there is a particular individual who can be the reason or root cause of the financial loss there is an overshadowing cultural norm that suggests that it is encouraged to sue in order to reclaim whatever was lost and that it would be almost irresponsible not to. Hopefully this answers the question of why the teaching that Christians should not sue has a lack of receptivity in western-minded believers. But we often fail to see how we operate within our American culture that contains capitalism is not always how we should or are called to operate within our faith family, our Christian family.
Now on to why it is better for Christians to lay down their rights and suffer injury than to litigate. The first quick answer on why shouldn’t Christians sue one another is that God’s word says not to as mentioned in the assignment instructions in 1 Corinthians 6. To dig a little deeper I think we can pull from several different teachings of Jesus and teachings in the New Testament as a reason not to sue each other.
The world is watching. Please don’t misunderstand. We should never place the burden on our shoulders of “being” Jesus to the world because that it is impossible. Jesus never sinned and we are sure to sin and fail, so if people are placing their faith in our reflection of Christ it is going to be imperfect, sinful and faulty. The gospel message is that even while I am a sinner Jesus died for me. Yet the reality is the world is watching how we love each other. Jesus said in John 13:35 that “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we take a fellow Christian into court, we would be hard pressed to convince the world that we are doing so in a loving, Christian-like way. There has been a growing interest in Christian Apologetics in the last several generations. Apologetics for those who may be new to the term is simply the theological discipline of providing a defense for the truth claims of the Christian faith. There are so many well thought out and presented reasonable arguments against claims and objections that Christian skeptics may have against the faith. Yet there is one defense for the truth claims of Christianity that rises above the rest. Francis Schaffer is quoted to reveal that this final apologetic is “the observable love of true Christians for true Christians (Schaeffer 1970, 17).”
One final note on why Christians should not sue other Christians. We must never forget the grace that has saved us. If any of us seriously sat and thought about how much grace we needed from God, how much grace we have been given by God, how could we ever truly not be willing or at least not have the desire to give grace to others? In the Lord’s Prayer we read part of it to say “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).” In the parable of the unforgiving servant we read a story where a servant who was given mercy by his master refused to offer grace and mercy to a fellow servant who owed him (Matthew 18:21-35).” Most of us may read that story and think “that aint right” but yet would defend the notion that it is ok for a Christian to sue another Christian. We are supposed to be witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not a witness to living the “do better” “try harder” “living righter” life but a witness to the wonderful, amazing grace of God that has saved us and rescued us from our sins. Our message is grace. So when we are seen to not be showing or giving grace to others, especially fellow Christians the Christian message is lost. Show me a Christian who does not get why it is wrong to sue a fellow Christian and I will show you someone who does not fully get nor has been fully captured and conquered by grace.
We are all like Jean Valjean in Le Miserable. We have all committed theft, sin against God. But like the priest in the film who extends grace to Jean Valjean God extends grace to us because He loves us and wants to make much of His name for His glory. Grace is the gospel. When we fail to give it, we are failing to give the gospel. When we fail to teach this in the church, we are failing to help people realize the importance of understanding the role of grace in salvation, which is frightening because without grace how is church anything more than magic, self-help, follow-these-simple-steps-to-a-better-life-now, moral therapeutic deism? No grace, and self becomes our idol. No grace, and all we are left to do is to cheapen the law in order to fool ourselves that somehow we will be able to keep it and fulfill it. Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus fulfilled the law and all righteousness for us (Matthew 3:15).
The law was given to show us that it is impossible to keep and that our only hope is grace. Grace leads us to deny our self and follow Christ our Savior and Lord. Just as grace has pardoned us of all our sins, may we love to offer grace and pardon those who have sinned against us.
Especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
The Evangelical Christian Library. “The Mark of the Christian” by Francis A. Schaeffer. http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html (accessed December 4, 2014).