Believers and Believers before the Bench -- By: William E. Arp

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 09:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Believers and Believers before the Bench
Author: William E. Arp


Believers and Believers before the Bench

William E. Arp

Professor of New Testament and Greek
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

Stella Liebeck spilled hot coffee on her lap at a McDonald’s drive through in Albuquerque. She suffered third degree burns and spent a week in a hospital undergoing skin grafts. She asked the McDonald’s corporation for $20,000 to cover medical expenses and sued when they offered only $800. Trial testimony revealed that at 180 degrees, McDonald’s coffee was substantially hotter than typical restaurant coffee and corporate rules kept it that way despite getting hundreds of coffee scalding complaints. Jurors awarded Liebeck $160,000 in compensation for medical expenses, physical and emotional suffering. They also gave $2.7 million, or two days’ worth of McDonald’s coffee sales, to punish the corporation. The trial judge reduced the punitive award to $480,000. The actual amount Liebeck received is not known since the parties ultimately agreed to a private settlement.

Here is the hypothetical question: If Liebeck was a Christian and the owner of McDonalds was a Christian, would it be right for Liebeck to take her case to court? Is it ever right for a Christian to sue another Christian?

Paul spoke clearly to this problem and subsequent question in his first epistle to the church in Corinth.1 Paul clearly answered this question negatively. A Christian is not to sue another Christian. Paul does, however, provide another way to resolve the issue. A Christian may take another Christian before the church to resolve a legal problem between believers or the wronged believer may decide to take the wrong and not get any compensation back. This article will analyze the problem of Christians and lawsuits in three steps. First, I will look at Paul’s response to a specific problem in Corinth (6:1–6). Second, I will look at Paul’s rebuke concerning

this problem in Corinth (6:7–8). I will finally look at Paul’s reminder because of this problem in Corinth (6:9–11).

Context

Paul writes this letter to the church at Corinth to respond to a letter from the church (7:1) and to reports he has received from people (1:11; 5:1) concerning various problems in the church.2 Af...

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