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The simple answer is yes—sometimes. But in matters of litigation, there are rarely any simple answers. There may be situations where one is legally justified in filing a lawsuit, but a Christian must evaluate more than just the letter of the law. To understand what is at stake, it is helpful to consider what God's Word says about Christians suing Christians.

In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul reprimands church members who have filed lawsuits against each other. Their pettiness, suggests the apostle, lacks eternal foresight and discredits the testimony of the church. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus offers principles for how two believers are to resolve a conflict. And earlier on, Jesus advised his followers about how to carry themselves if they are the object of a suit: "If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Matt. 5:40, NIV). What does this mean for us in today's ultra-litigious society?

As Christ's followers, we are called to live in unity. God wants us to be at peace with one another (Rom. 12:18). A suing Christian is usually enticed to take on the adversarial spirit manifested in the legal system. The predacious nature of our culture, the retention of attorneys, and the courtroom arena combine to form an atmosphere not conducive to reconciling relationships. A Christian who sues can become "caught up" in the system to the extent that he takes on a bitter, self-righteous, and disingenuous mindset.

This, in turn, can lead him to overlook the blessing hidden in conflict, an opportunity to demonstrate godly character in the face of adversity. It also minimizes God's concern about the "weightier matters of the law"—justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).

Even though he may be legally "right" ...

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In the Magazine

August 6, 2001

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