I received an email inquiry from an attorney friend of mine asking the following questions:
Under what circumstances would it be right or wrong for a Church to sue either a Christian or non-Christian (non-member in either case) for breach of a lease? Do you see any distinction between binding arbitration or a lawsuit in any event?
To which I replied,
Thanks for asking this knotty question, for it has made me think and study this morning on an issue about which I have long held an opinion, the scriptural rationale for which was not fresh on my mind.
The primary basis of my opinion is the teaching of the Apostle Paul; the secondary basis, my lifetime observation of the "Christian" and the "Church." I'll begin with the secondary basis of my opinion.
1. the absence of the Holy Spirit's influence in teaching the "Church" or the "Christian" intellectually about Truth and Wisdom, viz, most individual "churches" and "Christians" remain quite ignorant of foundational biblical Truth and, at the same time, remain quite vulnerable to error, both of which attest to the "church" or "Christian" being untaught by the Holy Spirit. My view of the Spirit's work in intellectual sanctification is that He progressively, measurably, and effectually leads true Christians and churches into a deeper and deeper understanding of Truth as well as into a lifestyle of decision-making that evidences ever deepening Wisdom. Rampant and as well as ,-Pentecostalism, are "plain as the nose on your face" examples of rampant error and absent Wisdom in the "Church" and among "Christians." If a "Church" or a "Christian" remains untaught and even deceived about fundamental biblical Truth, then we must conclude either that
- the Holy Spirit is a weak teacher, a poor conveyer of Truth and Wisdom, which is an unacceptable conclusion and therefore necessitates only one other conclusion,
- that neither the "church" nor the "Christian" is what they claim to be, evidenced by a lack of intellectual comprehension of biblical Truth and spiritual Wisdom;
- the post-conversion moral influence of the Holy Spirit is pitifully weak among the Church and Christians, and thus Almighty God, through the the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, is having quite a difficult time struggling with carnality in the Church. This conclusion requires a minimalist, emasculate view of the Holy Spirit's work in moral sanctification and therefore is also an unacceptable conclusion; or, rather,
- the persistent, pervasive immorality in the "Church" and among "Christians" indicates a widespread absence of moral transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit. In other words, slavery to sin is proof that a "Church" or a "Christian" is not truly a slave to Christ (Romans 6:16).
- the Holy Spirit is feeble in his administration of psycho-emotive graces, or
- the meagerness of psycho-emotive graces among contemporary "Churches" and "Christians" attests to their illegitimacy and reprobation.
church discipline in relation to the incestuous man and other egregious sinners
to whom the Corinthians turned a blind eye in their communion service.
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? I say this to your shame. (I Corinthians 1:1-5a).As noted before, the Church today is broadly Corinthian in this matter, having abandoned their judicial authority and responsibility by their own lack of moral, doctrinal, and psycho-emotive integrity, as well as by failing to repent of this error and obey Christ and Paul, thus to purify themselves and recover their responsibility and integrity to exercise judicial authority, otherwise known as "church discipline." So, in answer to your questions -
"Under what circumstances would it be right or wrong for a Church to sue either a Christian or non-Christian (non-member in either case) for breach of a lease? Do you see any distinction between binding arbitration or a lawsuit in any event?" - I offer the following:
2. Binding arbitration is less messy than church discipline and sometimes benefits from pre- or concurrent contractual agreements that disallow lawsuits and, instead, obligate the contracted parties to binding arbitration;
3. If the person says s/he is a "Christian," then you must ask yourself if the person with whom you are dealing is really a Christian? If so, s/he should have no reservations about obeying scripture to settle the grievance;
4. Is the "Church" with whom you are dealing truly a church or, if it is a "church," is it a Church like Corinth who has compromised its integrity or abandoned its authority to judge in such matters, that is to exercise discipline?
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17)
The problem is even more complicated if the offender and the offended belong to two different churches. In that case, neither church would have disciplinary authority over both the offended and the offender; therefore, your avenues of recourse would be as follows:
- the offended should inform the offender's church of the grievance and ask them to commit to the Matthew 18 process; if they refuse, then,
- I see no recourse but to ignore the impotent church and seek redress in civil court.