Keep Judgments "in House”

“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” (1 Corinthians 6:1, NIV)

What is one of the most unpopular but recurring themes in the Bible? Judgment! Expressions like, “Who are you to judge me?” sum up the human distaste for judgment. But let’s look at another phrase: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” The USA was founded on judgment. Our forefathers had to judge whether or not it was true that the Creator made us all equal — and if this were true, what should they do?

Not only did they affirm human equality, they judged it as self-evident — beyond debate. But this led to more judgments: should we separate ourselves from England and its king? Should we forge a republic rather than a monarchy in this new land? Declaring independence was no small issue. The Founders had to weigh the pursuit of human rights against the biblical admonition to respect the king and all those in authority (Romans 13). Yes, the decision was difficult, yet they judged, risking their honor and their fortunes.

Judgment is never without cost. It is rarely easy, and it is rarely clean. These difficulties notwithstanding, our founders established a constitution by which we would govern ourselves. But, a self-governing nation can only endure where self-governing individuals fill its schools, its squares and its leadership. But the signs of immaturity are everywhere: people do not govern themselves. Many are like little children who rest in a stable household… yet complain when the parents apply the critical judgments to them—the very judgments that forged their security!

Chafing against judgment is both a social and a spiritual arrogance because judgment is a necessary part of every code — written, verbal or merely understood. An honest look at our own hearts reveals the need for judgment (although atheists are motivated to deny this), and judgment is a biblical imperative — both in overarching theme and in innumerable particulars. Therefore, none can avoid it… not on earth, not in heaven, not now and not in the future.

The popular saying, “Christians are not perfect... just forgiven” speaks to a sad truth. We Christians, by and large, do not behave better than our heathen counterparts do… and we should do a lot better than that! After all, we are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). So how do we accomplish this? Through interactive separation. We remain embedded in the culture, but we separate ourselves in behavior, attitude and love. For this reason, many Christians eschew alcohol, tobacco, lotteries, etc. — not because these activities have specific biblical mentions — but because they identify with worldly affections and lusts, which run counter to God.

In ancient Corinth, people often took each other to “law” (to court) as a form of entertainment more so than for the redress of wrongs. But the believers in that city — the ones belonging to the church in Corinth — were doing that same thing! This was frivolous behavior — an overt and worldly excess. So, the Spirit of God prompted Paul to address this issue in the church.

Paul taught that, even though the church members might have had legitimate grievances, they should not have taken them public. I mean, where is the salt and light when the believers themselves have lost their savor, and where their light is no brighter than anyone else’s? Furthermore, Paul took umbrage that Christians — those who have the specific right and duty to judge — were abdicating judgment to those who were, by definition, unjust — the people of the world.

Paul would rather that a believer went before the humblest brother with these matters than before the civil court. We, not the world, have the ultimate right to judge. Hey — we will judge angels! (1 Corinthians 6:3). But there was something even better for us than godly in-house judgment: forgiving and forgetting. A Christian should absorb the injury.

“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7, NIV).

The biblical standard is clear: Christians should not take internal grievances outside the church. These offenses should be judged within, or better yet — the offended member should endure the offense without reprisal.

Think about it: Isn’t that what Jesus did for you and me? We offended the Lord with our sin. Yet on the cross, he “absorbed” the wrath that was justly ours. Should we do less for each other?

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