ControlAltDispute's Blog

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

Posted on: September 13, 2009

The fact of the matter – like it or not – is that every single day, professing Christians are in secular court battles with each other.  Some do it knowing that it is wrong, but proceeding anyway because they think it is in their best interest.  Some, however – and I think it is really “most” – do it because they do not perceive any alternative.  To the first group I would say (quoting a very funny, but totally unrelated, skit by Bob Newhart):  “Stop It!”  To the second group, I would have to ask:  “Is it really true that you have no alternatives?” or “Have you gone to your church?

Now why did some of you let out a deep sigh when you read “Have you gone to your church?”  (Yes, I did hear you all the way over here.)  I think that the Bible could not be any clearer that there are two duties in the case of unresolved disputes between confessing Christians:  (1) the parties have the duty to go to the Church and (2) the Church has the duty to resolve.  I get that from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6: 1-6:

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:  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?

The Believer’s Duty.  There really is not much to expand upon with regard to the believer’s duty in these situations.  In a rare moment of restraint, then, I won’t!  It is this simple:  Do you claim to be a follower of Christ in a dispute with another who claims to be the same?  Then you must take your “case” to the Church at the outset.

The Church’s Duty.  If the Believer’s duty is clear, is the Church’s duty any less manifest?  As between professing Christians, the Church is to be the primary vehicle for resolution (and not just resolution like a secular court can give, but also restoration and reconciliation – but more on that in another blog another day).

[Note here my deliberate use of capitalization of the word “Church” to make reference to the Universal Church, the Bride of Christ, over against the local gathering of congregants at a certain geographical location often called a “church” but without initial capitalization.]

Why then is it that churches (to my limited experience at any rate) are so ill-equipped to fulfill their duties in this respect?

Let me ask this question to specific people groups:

Seminary Professors, Deans, and Trustees:  If I Corinthians 6 contains a mandate for the local church (and I believe it does), in which course are your M.Div. students getting instruction on this?

Pastors and Leaders:  What are you doing to keep your congregants from stumbling into the secular courts?  Have you presented them with a reasonable alternative?  I am not really going to “beat up on pastors” here because I just have so much respect for someone with that calling in that position – but the question must be asked.  (For more on this, please see my open letter to Pastors on our main site at: www.controlaltdisptue.com/letter.html )

Christian Lawyers, Mediators, and Judges:  What are you doing with your “vocation”?  Were you gifted and called to share your talents only in the secular arena?  Isn’t there something you could bring to the Bride in this area?  I’m not saying it has to be something as elaborate as what we did with ControlAltDispute, and I’m not even going to try to guilt you into any more free services (because lawyers as a group seem to be solicited for free work disproportionately to other occupations), but I will ask you to ask yourself the question:  Am I using my gifts and calling directly for the Bride?

Foundations and Successful Business Owners:  Can you help?  At ControlAltDispute, though our fees are low and split between the parties (and/or sometimes funded by a local church), there is still a cost involved.  (I have personally “daydreamed” of a foundation approaching me someday here in south Florida with a big bag of money saying, “Can you help the poorer among us to resolve their disputes outside of the secular arena if we help fund it?”)  Maybe you can be that benefactor to your church in your location?

[There.  I think I’ve offended everyone now . . . .]

We’ve got the clear Scriptural admonition, we all know we expose the Bride to ridicule when we go before the secular courts, and together we have the resources to comply.

So whose job is it anyway (to see that we don’t ignore I Cor. 6)?  I guess it is all of ours – all of us who claim to make up the body, the Church, the Bride.  We all bear some, but not the same, responsibility.

Let me close with the chorus from “If We Are The Body” by Casting Crowns (I am sure their primary meaning was not Christian mediation or dispute resolution, but in my tunnel-visioned world, it fits):

But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way.

Your thoughts?

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

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