Are You Unworthy To Judge: A Commentary and Modest Proposal on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Throughout my life in the Church of God, I have been threatened with spurious lawsuits on several occasions from ministers and others, part of the price of being an outspoken person, I gather.  The Bible itself clearly forbids brethren (or ministers) going to law before unbelievers about problems within the Church of God.  This would include going to law with spurious criminal complaints, even if they have some possible basis in fact [1].  Though the subject of judging righteous judgment [2] and recognizing the unsavory pasts of brethren [3] have been interests of mine, I thought it worthwhile in light of a litigious church society to reflect both upon the scriptural prohibition against suing the brethren as well as make a modest proposal about what to do about it within the Church of God.

The Christian Responsibility to Judge

Let us first examine 1 Corinthians 6:1-5 to show the responsibility of brethren to judge, to weigh evidence, and to become familiar enough with the Bible to be competent judges of earthly matters and disputes here and now.  1 Corinthians 6:1-5 says:  “Dare any one of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?  If then you have judgments concerning things to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?  I saw this to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”

Let us note that this particular passage points out a lot of very important truths with regards to the conduct of Christians.  For one, Christians are not to sue other brethren, and are not to follow this litigious society’s proclivity to profit lawyers through incessant squabbling in the courts.  We are in training to be judges over angels, and part of that training means becoming skilled at discerning matters here and now.  Is there a complete lack of brethren capable of weighing the evidence and making a fair and proper judgment based on both facts (evidence) and law (the biblical commands)?  Certainly not!  Why is it that some church organizations glory in their lack of conversion by promising to sue brethren in court for defamation [4], rather than obeying the scriptures?

There are a couple of interrelated concerns here.  One is that the reputation of the Church of God is harmed when there is public squabbling among supposed brethren.  As the sign of the true church is to be the brotherly love shown by brethren for each other (John 13:34), we ought to act like the brethren of Jesus Christ rather than the squabbling Gallagher brothers of Oasis [5].  If we are supposed to spend eternity with each other, we ought to be able to work on getting along here and now?  Aren’t we supposed to be using this life to prepare for all eternity?  That prompts the second concern–that we, the brethren, are to be able to judge here and now the matters of this life, so that we can learn how to judge more serious and important matters later on in the Great White Throne Judgement.  Let us not forget, after all, that ordinary Israelites without God’s Holy Spirit were considered competent to judge matters of God’s law among the congregation of Israel (Exodus 18:17-26).  If they were considered by God to be competent to do so, how much more so are brethren with the Spirit of God working with them and through them competent to judge matters here and now?

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

1 Corinthians 6:7-11 makes plain the very serious consequences of the moral failures of the brethren of Corinth in their lawsuits against one another, and point to serious consequences for brethren today for similar sinful behavior.  1 Corinthians 6:7-11 reads as follows:  “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another.  Why do you not rather accept wrong?  Why do you not rather let yourself be cheated?  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of your God.”

Now, having already gone over the lengthy list of sins elsewhere [3], I would only like to comment that we need not dwell in fear of extortioners if we are godly because God has forgiven us, and our own human frailties, and the glory God is able to work within us, are not things to be ashamed of but rather proof of the love and the power of God in turning weakness into strength, folly into wisdom, and baseness into righteousness.  Ought we not then to set a positive example of the restoration of our sinful and corrupt natures through the healing work of God’s spirit and the cleansing of our sins in baptism?  Ought we not to celebrate what God has done with us, to set an example of how others too are to be regenerated and restored to what God intended us to be through their own repentance and conversion?

This passage also brings up another interesting point that is highly relevant to the current problems.  Those who are most litigious, and most eager to sue their brethren, are the ones who are the most wicked, who cheat and wrong their brethren, who steal the property of others, who behave unethically, who use false names to peddle lies, all of which has been dealt with at length previously.  Nonetheless, it is those who are the most wicked that are the quickest to sue.  Despite all the wrongs I have suffered in my life, and there have been many, despite all the slanders and libels and defamation, I have never sued any man because God is my advocate and judge and He will avenge, and because I take the Bible’s prohibition on lawsuits against other brethren (no matter how carnal they may be) seriously.  What good is it to call ourselves Christians and to trumpet the knowledge we have of the word and commands of God if we do not take them seriously enough to actually obey them ourselves in our own personal and professional conduct?  Do we not make a mockery of our beliefs and our claims by failing to live by the divine laws we preach so passionately?  God will not be mocked.

A Modest Proposal

Given the foregoing, that it is the divinely ordained responsibility of ordinary brethren to become competent judges and that it is unacceptable and strictly forbidden for brethren to sue each other in court, there remains a serious need for mediation and arbitration among the brethren both so disputes can be solved in a Christian manner and for the development of the capacities of judgment among the body of brethren so that we may be competent to serve as the judges of angels in the world to come.

Therefore, it is my modest proposal that the Church of God set up a system of conflict resolution between brethren starting from the local congregational level and moving up where ordinary brethren can develop familiarity with weighing evidence and applying the biblical law to current situations.  Therefore, this modest proposal would also require that the applications of biblical law to personal disputes be taught to those brethren who have demonstrated through their conduct and conversation that they are themselves competent to serve their brethren in resolving issues at the lowest and earliest possible level.  Let us put Matthew 18 in practice, and train our brethren to do so.  Are we ready and worthy to judge?

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/someironic-comments-on-a-lawsuit/

[2] http://www.ucg.org/un/un0406/treasuredigest.htm#2

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/and-so-were-some-of-you-1-corinthians-6-9-11-focused-education-and-the-proclamation-of-the-gospel/

[4] “The Church will continue with its investigation to identify the harasser and will take appropriate steps to address any and all acts of harassment and defamation. The Church will also cooperate with any investigations by law enforcement to identify the suspect.”

http://www.freewebs.com/ucgcurrentcrisis/apps/blog/show/6007651

[5] http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1619872/oasis-guitarist-noel-gallagher-leaves-band.jhtml

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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