I know I am not the only one with this reaction, when the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthians for taking each other to court: “What about cases where the church is not qualified to judge because ________?”
No. Stop that. We have to accept the general principle first, and agree it applies the vast majority of the time. This is the thing with so many Biblical doctrines. We do not like it because it either condemns our actions or our attitude (or both!) and then we want to find the exception where it does not apply. And that was my very first reaction reading that again, to stiffen up and start thinking of exceptions, reflexively! And that is the point of this post. If I rebelled when reading it, lots of people did.
This particular one is a huge hurdle for Americans to get over because we live in such a litigious culture. The Apostle Paul even suggests that the Corinthians should allow themselves to be defrauded rather than take a fellow Christian to the secular courts, and all of us immediately rebel against that one. What about justice? What about accountability? What about restoring the damage done to an innocent person?
This is not the way it should be. Our first reaction should not to be to look for loopholes where the Biblical doctrine does not apply, which conveniently is always our own case. Our first reaction to something in Scripture we do not like because it condemns us is to realize that God is right and we are wrong, and to see where in our own lives we can repent and submit to the doctrine we do not like.
Finally – this one is something we really hate – this means we need to submit to church authority. The only way the church can mediate disputes between Christians is if we submit to her authority. We cannot run to the secular court system if we do not get the result we want.