8 Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame? 9 Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined. (Proverbs 25:8–10, NKJV)
We live in a litigious society. Disputes arise, sides develop, lines are drawn in the sand, resulting in division and alienation that ruins previous goodwill, grace, and unity. The Covid-19 virus has revealed generous amounts of effort are required to maintain unity and peace in society. It has also shown how easily it can be disrupted and destroyed. Diligence by all is essential as we endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Today’s passage teaches an advantage to diligently solving a problem with a neighbor privately. Hasty retreat to court over disputes often leads to shame by exposing our errors and deficiencies. Better to solve the problem and correct our errors privately. That means do not spread rumors against your neighbor by innuendo, talebearing, and backbiting. Go directly to the person and solve the problem! Don’t ruin your reputation by “demanding your day in court” while failing to use every avenue to solve the real (or perceived) injustice. Jesus said to solve private sins privately and without delay (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24). Do not develop a reputation as a person of conflict with a combative approach to disagreements. Instead, build a reputation as a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3–5, NKJV)
Paul faced unrighteous judgments. Yet, he understood some things about judgment that helped him withstand that pressure. Understanding what he knew will help us, too. 1) Paul did not overvalue human judgments of himself. He knew human judgments can be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. Human courts are not always accurate and just in their judgments. Do not give greater value to the judgments of others than they properly deserve, or you will become a people-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. 2) Paul did not judge himself. He knew his evaluation of himself could be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. He was not aware of anything incriminating against himself, but that did not make him innocent before God and men. We can think we are innocent, but that does not mean we are. 3) Paul trusted in the Lord’s judgment. God’s judgment will be timely, truthful, thorough, and telling. When we live for the judgments of others, we seek their praise. When we judge ourselves, we invariably praise ourselves. But, when the Lord judges us righteous, our praise will come from God.
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1–2, NKJV)
What a truly carnal action it is to take a fellow Christian to court to settle a dispute. “For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3)? Yet, Christians divorce without Scriptural cause, and claim it as “the only solution.” No, sundering what God has joined together is not a solution (Matt. 19:6). When matters arise that disrupt harmony among God’s people, we must be willing to let faithful Christians help us resolve the turmoil, whether it is in business, a marriage, in a family or among friends. “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated” (1 Cor. 6:7)? Pride and prejudice interfere with reconciliation and restoration of godly relationships. Put such sins to death, and pursue peace (Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11).