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Civil Disputes

By February 17, 2018February 20th, 2018Messy. Beautiful. Church., Sermon Series Pre-Campaign)

So you hire someone from church to clear your walkways after the snowstorm. They show up a day late, don’t salt, and break your snowblower! Then they ask for more money because it took them longer than they thought. Do you pay them? Do you not pay them? How big of a deal do you make of this? Church people are no strangers to this type of incident. Here in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul gives us a roadmap of sorts to navigate a situation involving civil disputes like this one.

1 Corinthians 6:1–11

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!

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Big Idea: People changed by Jesus don’t sue each other. 

  1. In the case of a minor civil dispute with someone in the church bring it to the church leaders first before taking it up in court. (v. 1-6)
  2. If you’re considering filing a civil lawsuit against another person in the church we’ve already lost. (v. 7)
  3. If you’ve been offended or wronged consider if this is something that can/should be overlooked or if it needs to be addressed. (v. 7-8)
  4. You’ve been changed by Jesus (v. 9-11)


Monday Morning Preacher

This is where I include more details on topics from the sermon on Sunday that I either didn’t have time to get to or forgot to mention.

In v. 9 the phrase that is translated “men who practice homosexuality” is a translation of 2 words: malakos and aresenokoites.

μαλακός malakos 

  • BDAG (Greek Lexicon) gives 2 senses to the meaning of this term: 1
    • 1. soft (Luke 7:25 – “What did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?”)
    • 2. pertaining to being passive in a same sex relationship (It is used here and in other extrabiblical texts in this era: Chrysystom uses it in the 1st and 2nd c. /  Aeschin 4th c. BC / Polycarp 2nd c. CE – letter to the Philippians)
  • As always context determines meaning and here the context doesn’t allow for us to render the term to be describing a literally soft skinned person (it would be a mistake for us to read our understanding of a “soft person”, emotionally weak or unstable, into the text).
  • Certainly, Paul is not referring here to boys who are the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of pedophiles since he is including this in a list of vices.
  • BDAG concludes “male prostitute” is too narrow and “sexual pervert” is too broad. 

Ἀρσενοκοίτης  arsenokoites – man who assumes the dominant role in the homosexual act.

  • This is the only time this word appears in the Bible. It is a compound word that literally means to bed a man.
    • Ἀρσεν arsēn – male 
    • Κοίτης koitē– bed, lie, place
  • Paul’s closest referent for the term was the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT), which uses arsen and koite to refer to homosexuality as well in Lev. 18:22; 20:13. However, the two terms are not combined as Paul does in 1 Cor. 6:9.  
  • Term appears in Syriac Bardaisans in 154 AD – he was the court philosopher of King Abgar VIII of Edessa
  • “Paul’s strictures against same-sex activity cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of alleged temple prostitution… or limited to contract w. boys for homoerotic service.” – BDAG
  • Homosexual behavior in the Roman world certainly consisted mostly of powerful men who would have intercourse with slaves, people of lower stature, as a means of exercising their authority and dominance over them. That was commonplace. However, Paul’s restrictions on homosexual activity cannot be limited to this type of relationship since he condemns the act itself.  He also includes the passive partner in this list which would be out of line with his view of sin. Lexically it is possible for him to be referring to prostitution but that would be too narrow to warrant a condemnation of the entire act itself. 

More on this issue:

  1. The gospel calls Christians to love everyone, no matter who they are, no matter who they are, no matter what differing views they have, etc. See the parable of the Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:25-37)
  2. God, as our loving Father, has given us moral parameters because he loves us and wants what’s best for us. He designed us and he wants us to live our lives in a way that coincides with our design. For example, your car was designed for a purpose described in the owner’s manual. I’m not towing a boat with my Toyota Camry. That’s outside of the designed specifications of my vehicle. So God designed our bodies to operate within the designed specifications he has laid out for us.