Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On lawsuits within the church

Painful it is. Church disputes. Heartbreaking it is, infighting among members of the common body professing they are faithful to God. Devastating when the lawsuits it leads to, draws public attention.

Ever wonder why Paul is so adamant about not having lawsuits in the Church? He wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
1Cor. 6:4 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?
1Cor. 6:5 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,
1Cor. 6:6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

I read about a lawsuit currently in progress in the court regarding a church member angry about being 'ex-communicated' from the church for 6 months due to a theological disagreement. Without other recourse, he decided to take the church to court. In situations like this, some people blame the leadership, while others blame the church member.

- that they are too authoritarian. They are not 'open' enough with the dissenting church member who takes them to law courts.
- they failed in their duties to show love to the flock like a Protective Shepherd over the sheep
- they abuse their powers of leadership

- that he is not submissive enough to authority
- for initiating the lawsuit in the first place
- for the lack of self-control, choosing to air one's grievances at the expense of the whole body of the church concerned

While many will fall into either of these 2 categories, some even both, reading 1 Cor 6 shows me that neither of these is as serious as the failure of the whole community to mediate between the two groups. 'Is there not among you one wise man' in that church? The Church has been blessed richly with many talented individuals. There are people trained in many kinds of skills, including the law and skills of mediation. What happened to the 'wise men' of the church? Are they too busy with their own careers? Are they too afraid to get their feet wet? Are they too afraid to step in and spend time understanding the issues behind the 2 dissenting parties? Where are the wise men of the church?

We Need the Wise Men to Mediate NOW!
Be not deceived. This case is not simply a case of the KJV translation or not. It is not a matter of submission to authority or not. It is simply the test of the will of the church to be united in seeing the church having the political will to stick together.

Here, it is easy to draw our lines. That the church that is embroiled in this lawsuit is simply that church concerned. I will venture to suggest that the church to be involved is the universal church concerned. So all Methodist churches, all Episcopalian churches, all Presbyterian churches, all Evangelical Free Churches out there, and all of you churches who claim that unity in the church is important, this lawsuit concerns not just them. It concerns YOU! Where are the wise men of the church? Where are the wise men of the UNIVERSAL church? Step in and mediate. Do it quickly. Do it now! The true test of the unity of the church is not in the 'truths' argued for. The true test is in the actions one take in the practice of love. Wise men of the churches, come together. Use your skills. Use your wisdom. Where are the wise men of the church?

If there is enough of you willing to be humbled or ridiculed for the sake of the unity of the church, there is hope. If there is a majority of you choosing to retain 'one's respectability' by not getting involved, it will be sad. Wise men of the churches, we need you now.


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