Christians taking others to court…

 

Recent events in my life have put me in a position I really don’t want to be in. It is likely that I will have to take someone to court to collect a debt. It’s a debt that I am clearly owed, and I can prove it legally; however, the person who owes me the money, although legally responsible, is not the person who personally defaulted on payment. In short, the person who did owe me the money passed away, and the person who currently owes the money is his legal business partner.

In any case, I know I have the legal high ground, and personally, I feel like have the moral high ground as well. I don’t feel moral apprehension about suing this person, but going to court is simply an incredible hassle that I do not want to go through.

All that said, this predicament has caused me to mull over what my faith has to say about my legal rights. In other words, do I, as a Christian, have the right to sue another person?

Two passages of Scripture have made me a bit uncomfortable with my legal and moral security.

First, in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, Paul makes it pretty clear that Christians should not take each other to court. Paul’s argument is two-fold. First, he bemoans that there is no one within the church wise enough to mediate the dispute. In other words, the church should be a place for Christians to settle disputes. Second, he argues that it is better to forgive and be wronged than to take another Christian to court; after all, we were all wrongdoers who have been redeemed and accepted into God’s Kingdom in spite of it.

The second passage I’ve been considering is Jesus’ teaching on turning the other cheek.

Neither passage addresses my situation directly, or at least I don’t think so. Here’s my reasoning. Paul is talking about Christians suing each other, but the person who owes me money is not affiliated with the church. Moreover, it’s not completely clear to me if Paul means all lawsuits generally (in our modern understanding of the term), or if he has something specific in mind that the Corinthian church had asked him about previously (which happens throughout both of his letters to them). Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek seems to be quite specific and should be taken quite literally, at least in my reading. The four examples he gives are specific, not general, and while I think the force of the examples can be broadened, I do not think they are a prohibition for Christians to go to court.

So, knowing the brief sketch of my situation and the issues I’m wrestling with, what advice would you give me? Is my reading of Scripture fair? Is it comprehensive? In other words, are there other parts of Scripture I should be looking at? What would you do in my situation?

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