Court is in session.
How should Christians resolve conflict, between other Christians, with their spouse, such as filing for divorce, or when you feel you’ve been wronged? The Bible has several verses that talk about conflict resolution among believers, which is why people of faith typically try to avoid legalities when possible.
Taking someone to court is a practice that has been going on for as long as a legal system has existed. When someone is wronged, they want retribution. It’s gone on for so long that it’s practically become human instinct.
But the Bible says to be slow to anger. It’s hard to do when you feel that you’ve been done wrong, yet logic and reason prevail when it comes to resolving conflict among individuals who profess to be Christian.
“This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” — James 1:19-20
If a person steals from us, we want compensation. If a person kills someone close to us, we expect them to go to jail or possibly even executed. There should always be consequences to poor decisions and bad acts, right?
While most of the human race may see it that way, the Bible sees things a little differently. In fact, it really leans more toward NOT taking people to court.
Trying to ‘get yours’ is contrary to the Bible when resolving conflicts.
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…” — Ephesians 4:26
Since revenge belongs to God, it’s not good to seek it out on your own.
However, this isn’t to say that you can’t ever sue someone or get justice. There’s a time for that too. But overall, as one would expect, the Bible expects mercy and reasoning to prevail over lust for vengeance and payment.
So, when exactly can you use the law and when shouldn’t you?
1. There’s a process of resolving conflict.
“If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.” — Matthew 18:15-17
When someone you know wrongs you, it’s best to resolve things quickly. But, there are stubborn people in the world who will refuse to admit they screwed up. If what they did is bad enough to warrant legal action, the Bible says that you’re allowed to do so. And even after a trial, if he still refuses, treat him like a pariah.
2. Try to resolve the problem privately, first.
However, there are times when you’re on the wrong end of the law. When this is the case, you also need to be gracious and admit you’ve messed up.
“But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers! Therefore it is already altogether a defect in you that you have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? No, but you yourselves do wrong and defraud, and that against your brothers.” — 1 Corinthians 6:6-8
3. Remember that everyone suffers when going to court, not just the wrongdoer.
You also shouldn’t be quick to start a legal dispute. Doing that basically makes you as bad as the one who wronged you (barring certain exceptions of course).
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? For when you are going with your adversary before the magistrate, try diligently on the way to be released from him, lest perhaps he drags you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throws you into prison. I tell you, you will by no means get out of there until you have paid the very last penny.” — Luke 12:57-59
4. If you can, let it go.
“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — Proverbs 12:18
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “turn the other cheek.” The Bible is where that comes from, and it’s good advice too. It doesn’t do anyone any good to get mad immediately over something potentially minor.
5. Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to let karma deal with the other person.
If it’s an issue that can be resolved without the involvement of the law, opt for that instead. It’ll save a lot of headaches and legal fees.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.” — Matthew 5:38-42
There are also Bible verses about resolving conflicts that come up in marriage situations, such as when a couple decides to file for a divorce, which is discussed in Mark 10:2-12.
6. There are times when going to court is healing.
“Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied.
No one needs to be married to a person who doesn’t love them anymore. God doesn’t want anyone to be subject to a loveless life. Once a heart is hardened, it’s almost impossible for things to become repaired. Being married is supposed to bring joy, and situations like this led more to disdain and hate.
7. Marriage as a legal bond is meant to be restorative.
“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. ’So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When you get married, you legally assume certain rights others don’t have in a relationship with one another. The marriage document can actually help to keep a spouse out of court when it comes to claiming property or ownership of material things associated with the married couple.”
8. A legal divorce doesn’t necessarily mean a spiritual divorce.
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” — Mark 10:2-12
Divorce can be a tricky topic. Ethically, there are numerous reasons why one should be allowed to divorce their husband or wife. However, Biblically, especially among Roman Catholics, there’s really only two. The first is if the spouse dies, so it’s not even really divorce.
The second reason is if the spouse is guilty of sexual immortality, otherwise known as cheating. But if someone is guilty of this and remarries, it’s still adultery in Jesus’s eyes.
Back in Bible times, marriage was viewed as a very serious vow, one that shouldn’t be broken under nearly any circumstance. But even if this is modern-day, marriage is still something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re going by Bible standards, you better be prepared to spend the rest of your life with him or her.