When is it appropriate for a Christian to Sue?
This is a question that some Christians ask, wondering whether it is proper for them to use the court system to resolve disputes. The answer is (of course), it depends. Below, we consider what the Bible says about litigation.
Doesn’t The Bible Say Not to Sue?
Some people read the Bible and refer to 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and argue that Christians can never sue. Certainly Paul (the writer of Corinthians) is concerned about litigation here. However, Paul’s letter was clearly directed only to members of the same church family suing each other. The court system of the day was not fair. Paul knew that and he also knew there were levelheaded people in the church who could decide these things. Paul wanted fellow church members first to look there to resolve the issues. It may also be that Paul is addressing fights over trivial matters.
This is not the only place in the Bible where litigation is described. Paul himself often used the court system for his purposes. Early in his ministry he used the Court system to help obtain the stoning of Stephen. Acts 7:54-58; Acts 8:1. Before he became Paul, Saul used the system to persecute Jesus. Acts 9:5. In Acts 16:37-40, the converted Paul was beaten and imprisoned without a trial. He used his rights as a Roman citizen to end his imprisonment. Again in Acts 22:25 Paul uses his Roman citizenship to stop illegal punishment. In Acts 18:12-17, Paul’s charge was dropped because his actions were not a crime and so no legal action was needed. Matthew 18:15-17 describes litigation at length. It is clear that not all litigation is wrong.
But aren’t we supposed to forgive no matter what?
Not even Jesus himself suggested such a thing. While he forgave many people their sins, there can be little doubt that he held people accountable for their actions. He let the rich young ruler walk away when he refused to follow the way of Jesus. Mark 10:21. Jesus told his followers not to throw pearls to pigs or give dogs the sacred (Matthew 7:6) meaning that there is a balance. Indeed, there are times when people do not get the pearls or the sacred things because they are acting badly. Repeatedly, Jesus told the Pharisees that their actions were wrong and that they would be held accountable. See Matthew 23 and Luke 11:37:53 for some examples. He drove out the moneychangers when they were selling their wares in the temple. Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15. Jesus instructed his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” when they were not welcomed, a symbolic curse to the host. Matthew 10:14. He even cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Mark 11:12-14. Clearly, even Jesus himself showed there were limits to grace on earth.
Balance of Grace and Justice
What a considered review of these and many other scriptures reveals is that grace and justice must live in balance. There are times where extending grace is critically important. However, there are times in which one must stop extending grace and justice must be enforced. This is the principle by which thoughtful Christians have practiced for millennia. This is the practice by which we at Dixon Law Office follow every day.
When Should a Christian Consider Litigation?
Before considering litigation, it is important to understand some background. First, there has been a wrong committed by someone else. That wrong might be by a person. It might have been caused by a group. A corporation might be at fault. However, the discussion only begins when there is a wrong committed.
Second, grace has been extended to the wrongdoer. An offer of reconciliation has been made. This can be done by the victim herself or through an intermediary such as a lawyer. However, caring Christians should make the offer of grace in nearly every circumstance.
Third, the other has refused to make things right. In other words, the person who has committed the wrong has refused to accept responsibility for his or her wrong. Accepting responsibility is not just saying “I’m sorry” though that is a good start. Responsibility is more. Taking responsibility is not only saying “I am sorry” but also paying for the consequences of the actions. If a financial loss has been caused, the wrongdoer has a responsibility to make it right. This has been the law of the Bible since the time of Moses. Exodus 21:12-36. In every modern and democratic society, this principle remains strong: wrongdoers have the obligation to make things right.
When someone does wrong, grace has been extended and refused, a Christian has a legitimate reason to consider using the court system to fix the problem.
Factors to Consider
Grace and justice are critical considerations. However, not every claim is appropriate for litigation. Even when the claim is legitimate, the offer of grace is refused, and the wrongdoer refuses to make things right, there are still other considerations.
In many cases, while the other has clearly committed a wrong and has not accepted responsibility, one must consider whether it is wise to sue. This is particularly true in cases of significant injury or damage. When there is a catastrophic injury, or even death of a loved one, it is certainly appropriate to consider litigation after the wrongdoer has refused to accept responsibility. Parents have the responsibility to care for their families. 1 Timothy 5:8. If the injury or death means the Christian can no longer satisfy his or her obligations, litigation may be proper.
Prevent Future Harms.
If a wrongdoer has injured you and refused to accept responsibility for it, there is a very real chance they will do it again. Many caring people pursue litigation because they don’t want another family to suffer like they have. Perhaps they want to take the dangerous driver off the street. Maybe other patients need to know the doctor has caused great harm. A corporation who refuses to fix a dangerous product could harm millions of people if litigation is not pursued. In such cases, litigation can serve the very purpose of preventing harms to other innocent people.
Stand Against Evil.
When someone has done something wrong and they have refused to make thing right, they are not acting properly. In those circumstances, it may be appropriate to consider litigation even when just one harm has been caused because you are standing against evil.
As Christians, we must stand up against evil. While it may not always be popular, Christians must be willing to consider standing up when others sit. Christians must be willing to hold evil accountable. Christians must refuse to cave in when others run in fear. Christians can – should – consider using the legal system to stand up against evil.
Seek Wise Counsel
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of the fault of another, you need to seek wise counsel (see Proverbs 12:15). At Dixon Law Office, we have decades of experience representing injured victims. And we do it from a Christian perspective of grace and justice. Call Dixon Law Office today and let us review your case. We will give you the wise counsel you deserve. Call 888-354-9880 or click here now.