Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 10 2013 - 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 – When rights can be wrong

There is something about the way we are made that causes us to react against injustice – it’s part of being made in the image of God. Such a reaction can drive us to campaign against injustice and corruption; to seek to create a better world and to bring freedom to those who are oppressed. But it can also become self-centred. We can become preoccupied with the real or imagined hurts others have done to us and determined to get justice for ourselves, or even revenge.

In the church at Corinth there appears to have been a dispute between two Christians. The one who believed that they had been wronged had taken the other to court. Paul says that such conduct brings the gospel into disrepute. “Why not rather be wronged?” he writes, “Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7b). “You must be joking!” is our natural reaction. If I’ve been wronged or cheated I want to get it sorted out.

But think about it for a moment. “Why not rather be wronged?” Is it really so very important that we make sure we get what we deserve? Do we really want to take that attitude with God? Surely we glory in the fact that “he does not treat us as our sins deserve.” He has dealt with us in grace and in mercy and calls on us to treat others with the same generosity and grace.

Remember the parable that Jesus told of the two debtors? A servant of a certain king owed his master an unimaginable sum that he could not begin to repay – millions of pounds. The servant begged to be given more time to repay the debt, but his master had pity on him and freed him from it completely. That servant then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him about a third of a year’s wages – a significant sum, but nothing in comparison with what he had owed his king. He demanded immediate repayment from his fellow servant or he would have him thrown into prison. The story is shocking. We immediately see the injustice of the servant’s behaviour. But we have far more difficulty in applying it to ourselves. We have a tendency to go on demanding justice from others.

It is certainly good when wrongs can be righted and when a debt owed to us can be repaid. If we have a dispute with a Christian brother or sister it’s good if this can be resolved amicably with the help of other Christians. But if it cannot be resolved in such a fashion it’s better to suffer loss; better to be cheated of what you consider your rights than bring the gospel into disrepute – to deny the gospel of grace by insisting on your own rights.

And think for a moment which is the better: a world in which each individual is preoccupied with themselves and determined to get what they consider is due to them; or a world in which each is concerned to watch out for the needs of others, to protect them from exploitation and to ensure that they are provided for? In the first scenario there is only one person looking after me; in the second, there are many.

Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that the day will come when they will judge the world – even judge angels. So let’s do what we can now to bring justice and blessing to others rather than being preoccupied with our own rights. To follow Jesus is to live for others and not for ourselves.

Heavenly Father, I am so glad that you have not treated me as my sins deserved but have loved me and given your Son for me when I was a rebel against you. Help me by your Spirit to follow Christ and to give myself to the care of others today.

Peter Misselbrook