Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists? Part II

Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists? Part II

 
This week I find it necessary to add a second part to clarify and expand, in some instances, what I shared last week and therefore this part II.
 
Clarifying Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6
The focus of Matthew 18:15 is “the exercise of church discipline when issues appear between church members. In the process of reconciliation the wronged person takes the initiative”(Andrews Study Bible Notes, p. 1275).
In1 Corinthians 6, Paul is “presenting the Christian way whereby a member of the church should seek equity when the one who he believes has wronged him is also a church member. There is no sin in seeking to secure that which rightfully belongs to one; for example, for a laborer to seek to secure the wages he has lawfully earned from an employer. But, as Paul has declared, there is a wrong in going before secular tribunals to secure adjudication of differences between brethren. Members of the church are answerable to its authority, and should look to it to adjudicate their differences” (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, pp. 697–698).  
It should be noted that secular magistrates were corrupt during the time of the Apostle Paul. As such he denounced the practice of members, especially the Corinthians who prided themselves in being wise, going to pagan courts to settle differences among themselves. However, is that to say in all instances that we never go to civil magistrates?
 
When Should We Involve the Courts of the Land?
Notwithstanding the explanations of the above, there are certain matters or cases that may not fall within the authority of the church to adjudicate or settle given the requirements of local laws. Additionally, the church is counseled to “constantly be on guard against turning from its gospel mission and taking up the duties of a civil magistrate” (Church Manual, p. 60). The Manual observes that there are “decrees to cases that are clearly within the jurisdiction of the civil courts and not within the authority of the Church or for which the Church agrees it has no adequate process for orderly settlement” (Ibid). Examples of such civil cases may include, but are not limited to, the settlement of insurance claims, the issuance of decrees affecting boundaries and ownership of real property, the deciding of some matters involving the administration of estates, and the awarding of custody of minor children” as well as incest, rape, child abuse and spousal abuse and violence, etc.
 
God‘s Ideal for Members
            According to Romans 12:18 members are encouraged to “live peaceably” with one another, but some of the examples noted above would imply that the principle of brotherly love and kindness was not being practiced in some instances. One in Christ would not knowingly defraud or abuse another. Unfortunately, these things happen and the church should not appear to cover up or ignore such actions. It has a right to address the issues even if that involves referring the matter or encouraging the matter to be turned over to the authorities of the land. And doing so does not eliminate the need for the church to minister spiritually with the view of seeking to restore the brother or sister to the values and practices of Christ. For all of this to take place, it is necessary for members to submit themselves to the authority of the church. After all, the church is not a building but the people of God.