Bible Question:

Can a Christian bring suit for damages against anyone?

Bible Answer:

The answer to your question is found in 1 Corinthians 6. The first part of the chapter asks a series of questions.

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? (NASB) 1 Cor. 6:1-4

The message of the questions is that lawsuits between believers should never occur in the secular courts of nations, since believers will judge both the world and angels. This implies that legal cases are possible between believers if the complaint or issue is presided over by another believer. Only lawsuits in secular, governmental courts are prohibited.

The next verse tells us that believers should be ashamed to go before a civil judge. Any legal action should be decided by a very wise believer.

I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? (NASB) 1 Cor. 6:5-6

In most churches this wise Christian would most likely be one of the church leaders. He would hear the complaint from the accuser and the response from the accused. The parties would agree to be bound by his decision. He would make the final verdict and both believers would willingly submit. That is the biblical pattern that the Holy Spirit established through the apostle Paul.

Then God encourages us to follow a better pattern. It is better not to sue and be defrauded. That is, it is better to suffer injustice and not to take legal action against another believer.

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. (NASB) 1 Cor. 6:7-8

Did you notice that the Holy Spirit says “it is already a defeat for you”? They had already violated God’s standard of the heart by suing other believers in a secular court. They demonstrated complete insensitivity to one another and revealed their own self-centeredness. They were already taking legal action against one another.

Conclusion:

The response of their hearts should have been forgiveness and a willingness to be defrauded – to suffer loss. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave these principles,

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (NASB) Matthew 5:39-42

While legal action against unbelievers is not prohibited explicitly, it would appear that if we are to love our enemies as ourselves (Matthew 5:43-44) then we should be willing to be defrauded by them as well. It is better to forgive and yield!

Reference Links:

An Eye For an Eye
Love Your Enemy