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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 6:5-8 Better to be wronged

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 13, 2023

5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one wise enough among you to decide a dispute between brothers? 6 Instead, brother takes brother to court—in front of unbelievers? 7 In fact you have already suffered defeat: to have lawsuits at all with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even brothers!

For the sake of the gospel, wouldn’t it be better to settle our differences privately? Indeed, for the sake of saving souls, wouldn’t it be better to suffer some personal loss; better to be wronged? When we think ahead to judgment day, when we will see millions upon millions of human beings falling into the smoking pits of punishment, will someone come to you as our feet are leaving the ground together to be brought by the angels into Paradise, might they smile gratefully at you, because you were willing to give some of your time, or lose an argument, or be cheated from some property that you might have enjoyed for a short while, for the sake of their soul? We can all imagine someone weeping at a grave, sobbing: “I would give anything for them to have gone to heaven, to have gotten to know Jesus.” One of the things we might give, harder than money or time or sweat, is humility. A willingness to admit a fault might be the tiny pebble that begins a tremendous shift in another person’s feelings about religion, about Christianity, about the whole idea of salvation. Of course, it is the gospel that truly makes changes, but sometimes we can become stubborn obstacles to the gospel in the mind of an unbeliever, or of a weak brother.

How should you react when a brother, a fellow believer, brings a complaint to you? The best thing to do in the beginning is to (pardon the expression) shut up. Listen. Ask who, what, where, when, and how questions and let the person say what is wrong. Don’t make a rash judgment on the spot. Listen to the other side. Again, don’t judge instantly. Weigh what has been said. It might be best to ask a couple of other people who both sides respect for their opinion.

The beginning of every choice like this is the same as the beginning of every choice we make: Love God, and love your neighbor. How can I show my love for God and my love for my neighbor today? How might my words bring Christ to light for someone whose faith is troubled or shipwrecked?

The word of God works faith in the heart, and rescues souls otherwise lost. Hold out that word, remembering all the while that the word itself, and not my feeble effort, is what truly saves.

Something more:

The idea of handling all of our differences and disputes privately is something that can also be abused. If the church were to insist on settling all errors and disputes privately, then the entire Christian church could fall under the same criticism that the Roman Catholic church has recently experienced with scandals that appear, to the unbelieving world, to have been covered up, and perhaps in some cases truly have been covered up rather than settled. What Paul is urging is that the people actually do something about complaints, but remember Christian love in doing it.

An ancient poem written by a Christian about pagan times, describes the misery of people who have never heard of Christ and who need the gospel. Notice how the author ends with a benediction, a blessing for all those who read the poem in their Christian faith and look to Christ for salvation “in the bosom of the Father.” This is from Beowulf, and the translation is by J.R.R. Tolkien (Author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”).

  Such was their wont, the hope of heathens;
  they were mindful in their hearts of hell,
  (nor knew they the Creator, the Judge of deeds,
  nor had heard of the Lord God,
  nor verily had learned to praise
  the Guardian of the heavens
  and the King of glory.
  Woe shall be to him that through fiendish malice
  shall thrust down his soul into the fire’s embrace,
  to look for no comfort, in no wise to change his lot!
  Blessed shall be he that may after his death-day
  go unto the Lord
  and seek peace in the bosom of the Father!)

                                Beowulf, lines 178-186

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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