The Bible advises Christians to not sue one another. That may surprise you. It is most clearly in 1 Corinthians 6, but it also comes up in Matthew, 1 Peter, and James. I agree with scripture. Even when I don’t, I am humble enough to recognize that the Bible is a greater authority than my own preferences and intellect. So if the Bible and I disagree, I’m wrong.
But the Bible tells us that we shouldn’t ask government officials (judges) to settle matters that could be handled inside the church. We are to submit to the authority of God first of all. We also should have the generous spirit to not demand that we get our way in a dispute for the purpose of allowing a brother or sister to grow in grace, or simply as an act of service.
In many healthy, well-intentioned, good-spirited churches there is this feeling that no one would ever sue a church for these very reasons. I would venture to guess that a lawsuit from one of the members of one of those churches is in fact very unlikely.
As we have been finding the best way forward in this pandemic there have been decisions that church leaders had to make. How we would abide by the guidelines set by the Governor and CDC represented some of the most difficult decisions. I heard a pastor of a podcast recently talking about how they made their decisions so that if someone did contract COVID in one of their services the church would be able to defend their actions according to the guidelines if they were to get sued.
So I had to ask myself the question, should a church be afraid to get sued? I’ve already talked about how in good, Bible-believing churches this doesn’t seem likely. But the answer that I came to is yes. A church should be prepared to get sued for one very clear and easy reason. A Bible-preaching and believing church should be constantly welcoming visitors into their services. We are called by God to reach, minster to, and save those people who do not know Jesus.
The easiest way for people to come to know Jesus is in one of our services. We should therefore be expecting non-believers to be in our churches. Non-believers don’t have the biblical background to know what God has said about lawsuits in the church. They also don’t have the relationship of trust with church leaders and church members that would make it easy to find a non-litigated solution.
So if a church is focused on the Great Commission that Jesus gave us, to go and make disciples, then they should be expecting strangers. And it only makes sense then to think about the ways that they are leaving themselves vulnerable to lawsuits. We should be afraid to get sued. That fear should shift to love for those who we haven’t yet welcomed. And we should act out of that love to make things as safe, welcoming, and law-abiding as we can.
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. For more information please visit