“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? …So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame…Why not rather suffer wrong?” — excerpts from 1 Corinthians 6:1-7
Though he was far from the Corinthians, Paul could see them. As he sat in Ephesus, an ocean away from the church in Corinth, Paul had an insight into what the church there could and would be. One day, he thought, they would join the saints and judge the world. One day, when Christ returns, they would engage in the judgment of the angelic realm. Once in glory, the believers in Corinth would take up the dignified role of arbiters of Christ’s justice.
Sadly, at the time of Paul’s writing, the reality in Corinth was incongruent with the future glory which would be theirs. They bickered and fought and sued one another. They sang of harmony and love but practiced bitterness and brutality. Paul was embarrassed for them, and probably by them. Why are you doing this in front of the unbelieving world? Don’t you know they need your light, not your lawsuits?
He challenged them: Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
His questions grate against the modern reader’s mind. I must speak up for myself, we think. I must settle my grievance. It might be trivial, but not to me.
But Paul’s words ring out: Why not rather suffer wrong?
I do not propose an everyday-at-all-times-in-every-situation application of Paul’s questions. I don’t think he would either. There are abuses and atrocities which must be confronted, often publicly. I do propose that we release Paul’s questions into our souls. Like hounds on the hunt, let these questions roam your inner person. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
I will try to make one application of the principles Paul put forth here to our modern time: the Jesus-follower’s behavior online. Paul was concerned for the embarrassment which would come to the church in Corinth because they tried cases against one another in public courtrooms in front of nonbelievers. The lack of love they demonstrated there was an affront to the gospel. Perhaps modern application exists in our new courtroom of public opinion. Online, on social media platforms, blogs, and comment sections, believers should speak charitably, lovingly, and winsomely. A challenge, I know, but with the Spirit of Christ in operation within us, possible.
We will, after all, someday join the ancient Corinthian church in righteously and graciously, with great diplomacy, judging the world and the angelic realm. It befits us to act like like we’re ready for the job.