“Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.” (1 Corinthians 6:1–8, NASB95)
Among the other issues that Paul was dealing with in this letter to the Corinthian believers was their inability or unwillingness to deal with quarrels and disputes biblically between each other. For the Jews there was an extensive system of laws put in place from God through Moses. This, aside from what may have later been added by the rabbis which was extensive, gave the Jewish believers a framework from which they could walk through issues. Aside from the Jewish believers there were also the customs and laws in their culture which formed a framework of civility which could guide them in their disputes. But, beyond all of this was the basic principle of God that they were to love Him first and foremost and then to love each other. “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, NASB95)
On all of these levels they were failing. Instead it seemed that they were allowing things to fester and then running off to the courts for a resolution. Consider that they were not acting competent to “constitute the smallest law courts.” They were, probably along with more significant issues, taking even the small stuff to the courts and not working together among themselves to apply biblical principles to resolve their conflicts of whatever nature they were. They were evidently taking things that biblical principles would even have differed from the principles of their world.
Typically, the courts are not concerned with bringing people back together in peace and oneness before God as they work together to resolve their conflicts in biblical ways. The courts are rightly concerned with the black and white of the matter. This does not mean that the court does not consider and encourage restoration, but it is not their primary purpose, and in some places and some cases it may even be adjudicated in ways contrary to the principles of Scripture.
So, where is your starting place? The starting place of Scripture should always be considering whether this is something to work out between yourselves as people called to love each other and to be longsuffering and forgiving of each other. It is not a “sweeping things under the carpet issue,” but one of before God working it out where needed and not bringing it to the level of something greater than it is when not. Then from there, is it something where you might need some godly biblical counsel for yourself or between yourselves as to how to move forward. And, beyond that is it something that the leadership of the church might need to get involved in or you might before God after prayer decide to drop and even be defrauded as it were.
There is a lot in this passage that is not being dealt with and there are countless biblical principles that could be considered. But the real heart of the problem here is that there was apparently little to no effort among these believers to figure out how to walk with each other before God. Instead, they were running to those who did not know God to get the advice and even the judgment that should be coming from Him. When this passage speaks of the church it speaks not only of the collective body of believers united in Christ, but it also speaks of the authority of those appointed to leadership in the church as His overseers and shepherds. A couple of posts ago I cited Matthew 18:15-20 which is probably the most used passage dealing with the progression to resolution (or discipline) in the church (see April 18). We live under two authorities. One is appointed by man in our criminal and civil systems in which we live—the world, and the other is under God as appointed through His people—His church.
I know that the pledge of our country includes the words “one nation under God,” but this should never be confused as being according to God’s will. They each have their place, and even the authorities that rule over us in the world are here because God instituted them as we read in Romans 13:1-3, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;” (Romans 13:1–3, NASB95) This does not mean that these authorities seek after God or apply His wisdom to adhere to His principles. In fact, we don’t have to look too far to see just how far off they can be. But the basic structures of authority are to protect those who do good and to prosecute those who don’t while working to make the whole system flow whether through laws, taxes and more. Courts do exist for a reason and the have their appropriate place. This is especially true when it comes to matters of harm and abuse.
In this land we can sue and be sued, and we may need to walk through the paths of the courts. But this is not to be the primary place to where we who are Christians run to resolve our issues, especially for what Paul called the “smallest.” God’s Word is filled with His principles for how we are to walk with each other. There are those in the church who can help us with it, and there are even those who have made it their live ministry and even for some their livelihood to help Christians resolve conflict. (https://pm.training/about/)
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1–6, NASB95)