Sometimes the Bible teaches the most counter-intuitive things. We would all agree that justice is important, right? So, why does it seem that Paul teaches Christians to allow themselves to be wronged and cheated?
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addresses an issue in Corinth where Christians are taking their spiritual brothers and sisters to court. This might not sound like the worst thing anyone could do, especially if they are justified in doing so, but Paul thinks it’s a pretty low thing to do. In fact, he says, “how dare you take another to court before the unrighteous!” (1 Cor. 6:1).
Let’s take a look at two reasons he is so upset about this.
First, he is upset that Christians would seek justice from secular people before trying to work things out with spiritual people. Paul shows that the position of a believer is an elevated one: believers have the Spirit of God inside of them, which helps them make wise decisions. Unbelievers, on the other hand, do not. Thus, a situation like this should be handled inside the church among Spirit-filled arbitrators. With the help of the Spirit of God, believers can be reconciled and peace can be kept in the church.
Second, he is upset that believers would take their brothers and sisters to court at all. Paul is frustrated here because he knows the pain and struggle of the Christian life. When he thinks back to how Jesus lived, Paul recalled his humility, unjust suffering, and unfathomable grace. Paul, himself suffered wrongly at the hands of evil men and concluded that suffering for the sake of Christ was better than justice for himself. Thus, Paul concludes that it is better for a Christian to be “wronged” and “cheated” (6:7) rather than seeking the gratification of restoration in this lifetime.
In helping his readers think through these things, Paul points them to eternity. Paul knows that sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God but that saints will! With future glory in mind, Paul encourages believers to overlook the faults, failings, and foreclosures of others, keeping in mind both the cross of Christ and his future return.
If you find yourself with a “dispute against another” believer (6:1), go to them and discuss it. If they don’t help you resolve it, involve other believers from the church. If you are right about the wrong and a communal confrontation doesn’t help, two biblical options remain: forgive them and forget the debt, or break fellowship with them and allow the Lord to do his restorative work.
Even though it doesn’t make sense or it feels like you are losing, pursuing peace until the Lord returns is better for everyone.