If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the trivial cases? Don’t you know that we will judge angels—how much more matters of this life? So if you have such matters, do you appoint as your judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who is able to arbitrate between fellow believers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers! As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves do wrong and cheat—and you do this to brothers and sisters! (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
The Corinthians believers were still living with a worldly mindset, focused on money and their personal rights rather than treating each other as brothers and sisters of the family of God. Nor had they matured to the place of spiritual discernment. Their behavior was as bad as unbelievers. Paul pointed this out to their shame, saying that is better to be taken advantage of than to have the reputation of the church tarnished.
It would be good to remind ourselves that Jesus had already given instructions on how to deal with disputes among believers in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
The key to avoiding prolonged disputes is found in the first step, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” Much of the time, we skip this essential step and begin talking to others. Your life will be much more peaceful if you learn the habit of addressing grievances face-to-face with the person who has harmed you. While it may be awkward at first, the energy of quickly settling a dispute is well-spent and saves you from the energy-draining bitterness of holding a grudge.
Lord, teach me to settle disputes quickly with those who have harmed me or with those whom I have harmed. Let your Holy Spirit guide this process so that there may be peace in your family.