Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.
First Corinthians 6: 12 The Message
Paul was writing to a Corinthian congregation filled with problems. Here he expresses his disappointment that members of the church are suing each other, in secular courts! The apostle asks his fellow believers how they can expect to achieve justice before judges and juries who do not necessarily believe in the God of justice?
It isn’t that the Apostle Paul believes that a secular court could never deliver a decision pleasing to God. It is more about the Christian witness of believers in the same church suing each other. As some might put it: the optics are terrible! It just looks bad! If we say we would lay down our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters, but then we sue them, it just seems wrong. Why not attempt to resolve our our differences with faith and love, and perhaps the help of the Christian community. Some might say sue-happy Christians look like hypocrites, especially if both parties are in the same congregation!
We who follow Christ should be guided by His example, and a desire to express love for God, and love for others. Following the greatest commandments (to love God above all, and to love our neighbors as ourselves) still applies today, even in the most difficult of disagreements.
Sometimes, we believers mirror the world. We come across as being no different than our non-Christian neighbors and friends. We fail to be a light for others. We appear so indistinct from agnostics and atheists that some people can’t tell the difference. We no longer flavor the world with the love of God. We are like salt which has lost is saltiness.
During the holidays, Jeana and I watched a documentary called “The Fight Before Christmas”. It told the story of a man who so loved decorating his home for Christmas that the words “over board” don’t begin to describe him. He wanted crowds of people, literally thousands, to come and see his elaborate holiday displays. This did not thrill his neighbors, as you can imagine. This Christmas zealot disregarded the concerns of his neighbors about traffic, safety, and emergency access to their properties. Finally, the dispute ended up in court, with both sides suing each other.
What struck me was the man stated he was a Christian. He was also a lawyer, so he used that to his advantage as well. Unfortunately, he tried to get away with whatever he could legally do, rather than what was right or reasonable, especially in the eyes of his neighbors. He even tried to characterize his Christmas decorating as “a ministry” and viewed any opposition as “an assault on his faith.”
Now please do not misunderstand me here. My son is a lawyer, and not all lawyers are bad. In fact, sometimes they are necessary. My issue is not with his legal skills, but his “Christian witness” to his neighbors. They certainly did not feel “loved” by him!
This is exactly what Paul is speaking about. Just because you can do something, does not mean you should do something. Remember, the world is watching. Often, many are ready to judge us for a lack of consistency.
May we always seek to do what is “spiritually appropriate”, not just what is “technically legal.” We must follow Christ’s standard of loving our neighbors as ourselves. As the old Christian song proclaimed, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Not by our lawsuits, but by our love!
God of love,
The world may emphasize my rights, while minimizing my responsibilities. Help me to remember the attitude of Your son, who came to serve, and not to be served. He emptied himself for our sakes, giving up so much out of love. May I never be blind to the needs of those around me. Like your Son, may I always reach out in love, even when people try to hurt me. I pray this prayer in His Holy name. Amen.