“Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8).

The context of the verses involve brethren in the Corinthian church bringing one another before the courts of law over their personal disputes. Not only were the Corinthian Christians warring among themselves within the church, they were also bringing their disputes into the public arena.

John Calvin astutely noted that lawsuits among brethren occur when minds “are immoderately inflamed with wrong dispositions and are not prepared for equity and endurance of wrongs, according to the commandment of Christ.” In fact, this is true of many a quarrel within the church. When a man’s mind is focused only on carnal things, there is nothing too low he will not do to get a profit, even if it means hurting his fellow brothers and “loved” ones. In Nehemiah 5:1-13, we read of a huge outcry against some Jews who were selling their brethren as slaves to the foreign nations against the Mosaic law. They were also exploiting their poor brethren by extracting usury from them. Nehemiah rebuked them with pointed words that drove right to the heart of the issue – “… It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?” (Neh. 5:9).

Paul strongly desired that the Corinthian Christians should not only stop their public litigations against each other but also to put resolve to any animosity that was within their eyes. Paul wisely avoided giving a verdict, but rather acted as an arbiter to bring about brotherly understanding and reconciliation.

The golden principle in resolving conflicts is non-retaliation. This involves being willing to be defrauded and to endure wrong. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:39-41, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” When a person slaps another, he would usually slap a person on the left cheek (assuming that he is right-handed). Therefore, when the slap is on the right cheek, it would be a most humiliating back-handed slap. Nevertheless, despite such a humiliation, Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek. Herein is a teaching that the humble would endure and suffer wrong for the sake of Christ. He would rather let God judge and vindicate him than to take matters into his own hands. He knows that God is not blind and will ultimately vindicate the innocent. The Christian must seek to do good even to those who have done him wrong.

Besides enduring the wrong, the Christian must also learn to forgive his brother. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32) “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col 3:13-14) Jesus forgave us while we were yet His enemies, should we not therefore forgive our brother who is a fellow member of the heavenly family of God?

There are some conflicts of such a scale that cannot be resolved by informal personal counselling. In such cases, it would be necessary to convene a church court to arbitrate matters. The principle still stands that the involved parties must (1) be humble to accept any correction and restorative actions and (2) be ready to endure wrong for the sake of helping the other party (as taught in Matthew 5:39-41).

The “fault” (1 Cor 6:7) with the Corinthian Christians was their failure to meet the biblical requirement of loving their brother and thus they “(did) wrong” (1 Cor 6:8, adikeō, to cause damage or mistreat) to one another. The Corinthian Christians were “utterly blinded in making sacred brotherhood a matter of no moment” (Calvin). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The irony of the situation was, because they have refused to suffer to be defrauded, they ended up defrauding their brethren by denying them the witness of the love of Christ. Such is the case of anyone today who holds bitterness in the heart and refuses to endure wrong for Christ’s sake.

Dear brethren, it is inevitable as we serve Christ that others will do wrong to us, just as how it is the case that we will also do wrong to others. Many a church conflict will be diffused if we just learn to humble ourselves before God and men and be willing to be defrauded for the sake of Christ and our brethren. This is part of what it means to love one another in the Lord.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew