Disputes Within the Church
How do you deal with grievances with another?
How do you deal with grievances with someone within the church?
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
What happens when a dispute arises within the church? During Paul’s time, the Greeks dealt with issues in a public court, which was different than the way the Jews addressed issues. The Jews typically dealt with grievances with the elders of their village or synagogue. The reputation of the Corinthian church was declining. They were not examples of Christ to the city around them. The internal division in the church was noticeable externally.
But Paul calls us to deal with disputes internally as long as there is no criminal offense. However, it seems that these disputes should be handled with more delicate care and in a manner that God is involved in the process. We must be diligent with wisdom in these matters because resolving disputes affect multiple parties, and we don’t want to lose a brother or sister in Christ.
How do we resolve these disputes effectively in the church? Matthew 18:15-17 says:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
We must address the individual in private with wisdom and love in Christ. We start with the individual and build upon it from there. We must always remember to ensure we approach things prayerfully. Someday, we will be with Christ and judge even the fallen angels. Paul points out and rhetorically asks how they can do this with Christ if they lack wisdom and can’t even settle disputes in the church.
Paul points out that they used unrighteous courts and judges to preside over these matters. He implies that the Corinthian church was acting like unbelievers in how they handled disputes and grievances. Therefore, we must ensure any disputes within the church are handled in a Christ-like manner. We must seek God and His answers through much prayer. When dealing with disputes, we must ensure we are firmly rooted in God’s Word because it is a source of innumerable answers. Studying and reading God’s Word gives us the understanding and knowledge we require daily and while settling disputes. In all disputes, we must approach our brothers and sisters with love. Additionally, if it is a sin, we must condemn it while still pouring Christ-like love to the sinner. Tolerating sin allows it to grow and infect the congregation slowly. When it isn’t sin-related but is causing division, we must again approach the issues with prayer and compassion. We must be Biblically rooted in how we address issues and provide answers.
Finally, love one another as Christ loves us. Seek wisdom through prayer and study of God’s Word. If there is division amongst believers in the church, we must address it quickly in a Christ-like manner and with much humility.
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