As a young nurse, I discovered that one of the most challenging and heartrending aspects of my work with people was dealing with the devastating effects of family disputes. Particularly tough were disputes related to property rights or ownership. I witnessed the unnecessary loss of life and limbs, and severely fractured relationships.
This helped me understand more fully my parents’ wisdom in having an aversion to resorting to the court system to resolve differences. I have come to value even more their preference for walking away from ownership and choosing to maintain the relationship instead. Over the years, I have come to realize and understand more clearly that even though my parents never quoted scripture to me, they were practicing Bible-based wisdom.
The court system is, by nature, adversarial. To ‘win,’ one must use whatever advantages, tools, rights, and power available to outwit their opponent. As a result, both parties often end up ‘loosing.’ It may not seem obvious at first, but the losses are often profound: loss of a cherished relationship with dear ones, often extending beyond those directly involved; loss of reputation; loss of the resources needed to care for loved ones — paid to a legal system that often promises what it cannot deliver; loss of peace; and loss of health.
Seeking the Biblical standard, I have become even more convinced that God’s commandments and promises to us support the avoidance of using the court system to resolve conflict. First, court does not foster the commandment of Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (NRSV). Secondly, we are reminded where our focus should be during our brief time on this earth — our salvation will never be gained by anything this world has to offer: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Matthew 16:26, NIV).
Most important and enlightening for me are the words found in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. We are asked directly, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” These are important questions to consider. In today’s world, the one who follows the Biblical commands of our loving God is often seen as weak and powerless, but is this so? Jesus was also sometimes seen as powerless, primarily because he was humble and loving. Even though Jesus was powerful, he repeatedly told his followers that he did his Father’s will. I have therefore concluded that I do not want to put my faith and trust in the wisdom of man. Rather, my life’s journey has convinced me that I want my faith and trust to lie in the wisdom and power of God; for God has commanded us to love God and love one another.
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