Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do You Not Know That We Shall Judge Angels?

"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?  Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, matters of this life?" 1 Corinthians 6:1-3
It is a rare and difficult thing to understand the mind of another.  It takes a relationship built by lots of time, and/or a common interest and background.  Something that connects.  A shared experience.  It is this very same feature of Man that dooms us to repeat the mistakes of history and enables us that most glorious and miraculous gift of friendship, and love.  Let me explain what I mean:
In order to understand the mind of another human, you have to spend some time or have some shared experience.  There is no other way.  Our brains are learning machines and can only process information that it gets.  This is why the young cannot comprehend the lives of the old - because they haven't gotten there yet.
On the down side, we must recognize, that as humans, we cannot truly understand the thoughts and emotions of another unless we ourselves have experienced very similar things.  That is why people of today don't recognize patterns of the past and will often repeat the mistakes of previous generations.
On the good side, because of the rarity of shared experience, there is true joy when we encounter someone that understands us and our thoughts and has similar experiences and thoughts to share.  There is also true joy in spending time together with people to actively share experiences together.  This is the foundation and source of friendship and love.
Lawsuits can only happen where there is a catastrophic absense of love.  This is why brothers under Christ should never be in a lawsuit on opposite sides.  Justice and love are equally rare to find in the secular court system, even in a righteous country like ours.
I had the misfortune of being in a multi-million dollar law suit that went to a very lengthy and painful arbitration.  Things I would have sworn were true, turned out not to be, and things that I knew could not happen did happen.  We won in the end, but it was painful and it robbed me of much during the process.  There was no love in it.  I cannot imagine two Christians, bonded by fellowship in Christ letting things get to such a state. 
Paul writes in this chapter six such wisdom.  But I fear that most will not truly appreciate its implications or understand the power of what he is saying unless they have been through the legal system in a painful way so that the understand how unpleasant and void of love the process is. 
I think this first half of the chapter has two lessons to draw:
1.  Don't let a disagreement destroy the love between Christian brothers or sisters.  It would be better to give in and let the other win, even sacrificially than to break the bonds of fellowship.
2.  Even against non-believers, there is mercy to consider.  If the saints will truly judge the world, you will be deciding the fate of others and whether they spend an eternity in damnation or salvation.  Anything in this world is trivial by comparison.  Besides, mercy may show a love that could plant a seed that eventually may lead the opponent towards Christ.
One lesson drawn from my experiences is that no legal document, no argument, no contract, no carefully crafted strategy will get 100% to the truth.  There can never be total satisfaction from the law.  In fact, rarely can they come remotely close to such a thing.  As Christians, we should know this.  No man-made institution can produce truth, justice, or especially love.  Only God can do that.  Better to settle the case before court amongst each other than to waste the time, energy, and material treasures on arguing.  More often than not, there is pride at stake and there is no room for love or brotherhood in it.
Indeed, the sign above every courtroom should read "Am I my brother's keeper?"  I think that would better set the expectations of participants and discourage the use of the building in the first place.  (Read Genesis 4 to understand what I mean)

1 comment:

  1. Okay, a confession here. On days when I work at home at my desk (maybe two days a week), I have to have background noise, because I suffer from tinnitis (ringing in the ears). Usually it's music, but I have recently tuned in to some of the popular courtroom reality shows, such as Judge Mathis or Judge Judy.

    My conclusion from watching some of these shows is similar to Dave's above. First of all, I would never want to go to court, if possible. Rarely is either party totally pleased with the outcome, and the process of sorting out the dispute usually stirs up all kinds of additional animosities.

    Secondly, there is a great burden on the judge to discern the truth, since since both parties (in spite of swearing to tell the truth) always contradict each other. In these made-for televison courtroom dramas, the judges make no excuses for shooting from the hip: "M'am, I believe you are lying, and I find in favor of the plaintiff." Is this a contest to see who lies more effectively? Granted, most of the time I think the judges are probably right, but no one is infallible.

    Finally, I find it amazing that even in our increasingly post-modern culture, so many Biblical assumptions about what is good, true, and moral are made. Ostensibly, the only relevant standard is the law of land, but in spite of the messed up (and unGodly) lives of most of the people who come before the judges, I find the judges frequently speaking beyond the letter of the law to exhort them according to standards that are clearly Biblical. It believe that this happens because there is still a memory of Christian culture among the educated judges of this country. But with the state of contemporary education, by what standards will the judges of the next genration speak?

    Finally, to suport what Dave is saying, how much better it would if those who name the name of Christ would learn to settle disputes reasonably without being "brought before the magistrate"! I think we are Biblically bound to do this, and pray that Christians will take this passage seriously.