Lawlessness & Litigation:
Can Christians Sue Other Christians?
n the times in which we live, lawsuits have become almost a way of life. They've touched practically every part of American's lives, from the restaurants we eat in that must carry liability insurance because of lawsuits (note the recent Wendy's restaurant claim wherein a customer allegedly placed a severed human finger in her chili so she could sue them), to the malpractice suits that have become commonplace to seemingly every physician. Now even Christian ministries routinely carry liability insurance policies because of predatory lawsuits.
Most Christians know the lengthy passage where the Apostle Paul vehemently castigated the believers in Corinth that were squabbling among themselves in a legal proceeding. Paul wrote
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame."
"Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren" (I Corinthians 6:1-8).
This passage is plain enough and would seem to settle the question as to whether or not it is acceptable behaviour to be in litigation with another Christian. Indeed, having found myself in conflict with other Christians on more than one occasion, I'm quite familiar with this passage. Although Paul is forcefully saying it's wrong to be in a lawsuit with another believer, contemporary Christians still find themselves in battles, and sometimes lawsuits, with other believers. Why?
First, we may recognize that the church of our time doesn't even remotely resemble the fellowship that Paul was addressing. There was one church in Corinth; and even though Paul's epistles were to be read to other churches (Colossians 4:16), it is clear there was a centralized body of believers in each locale. Thus, the admonition was for the battling believers to be in submission to the leadership ("a wise man") within the framework of the body of Christ.
It is also clear that in the church of Paul's day, the Apostle urged that authority be wielded when necessary. On several occasions, Paul specifically instructed the church to shun, or even eject, those who were causing discord among the brethren. To this same Corinthian church, when a certain man was in fornication with "his father's wife," Paul indicated that an appropriate action was that such a man should "be taken away from among you" (I Corinthians 5:1, 2).
On other occasions, it looks as though Paul was urging the practice of shunning offenders within the church. To the Philippians, he told the church to "mark them" which were walking well and to "be followers" of the godly leaders as he distinguished them from the "many [who] walk, of whom I have told you often...[as] enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:17, 18).
To the Romans, he specifically instructed the "brethren" to "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). Thus, it is clear that the implied threat of being separated from the community of believers was a significant factor in the Apostle's insistence on keeping the matter 'within the family.' Indeed, it is this insistence on wielding the authority within the body of believers that led the early Catholic Church to practice excommunication. Although that practice was eventually abused as the Romanists moved away from the authority of Scripture, the text plainly teaches the church to govern in matters of dispute between believers.
To put it another way, it's abundantly clear that Paul wanted the believers to be in submission to the government of God - as opposed to the government of man.
What Did Jesus Say?
As Paul's teaching can never supercede the doctrines put forth by Christ, believers that cling to the Corinthian passage but ignore Christ's mandates are in significant error. JESUS CHRIST had quite a bit to say on the subject as well. The passage in Matthew 18 deals directly with conflict between believers.
"...if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:15-18).
This passage has been quoted out of context and in an improper fashion so many times that I've lost count. However, there is a deep wisdom in these verses that goes well beyond the immediate application of conflict within the body of Christ.
First, we may note the spirit within the steps specified is one of gradual and gentle reproof. There is a definite assertion of a longsuffering attitude in this procedure. This is consistent with many scriptures demonstrating how God works slowly within us to bring us to understanding. I've personally had to re-learn the lesson on numerous occasions that it's best to approach complex challenges slowly and methodically in a prayerful spirit.
Christ's statement deals in a straightforward manner, and doesn't articulate the many variables that we all know occur in real life. What if it wasn't actually a genuine trespass, but someone took offense when they shouldn't have? He doesn't discuss that. What if there wasn't really a "fault" and the grieved "brother," posing as an injured party, isn't really a "brother" at all, and seeks to use this procedure in a manipulative fashion to justify his or her position? He doesn't discuss such a scenario either.
Actually, the Lord provides a principle here (a "law" in the realm of the spirit) that will be applicable to every conflict - regardless of the seemingly endless permutations found in sharp disagreements; but I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the most straightforward application, a party has done something they should not have done, and has wronged another believer. Christ starts the procedure with an admonition that the grieved party should bring a straightforward reproof in a private context. If the two can work it out at that juncture, "thou hast gained thy brother," (Matthew 18:15) and the matter is settled.
"But if he will not hear thee," we find an escalation is allowed. Notice the injured party is not required to go through this procedure at all. He (or she) is completely free to "turn to him the other" cheek (Matthew 5:39), and to simply move on. In fact, many believers that find themselves in conflict simply jump into the Matthew 18 process without even considering the potentially huge consequences; for as we shall see, the process can end with one of the "brothers" in the conflict in hell fire.
Count The Cost Before Beginning
Most would think long and hard before entering into a legal battle that will be likely to take a very long time, and consume significant amounts of funds, without first giving the matter serious consideration. Although very few recognize it, this caution should actually be applied before beginning the Matthew 18 process, for the consequences of a spiritual collision are even more severe than an earthly clash in a legal arena. Jesus spoke of this principle as well when He said
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace" (Luke 14:28-32).
More often than not, Christians in conflict will brashly rush in to a Matthew 18 style confrontation, when they should recognize that if the conflict goes all the way to the end, the scriptural formula is actually a blueprint for one of the parties to end up in a place of complete desolation. Furthermore, if you, as a believer, begin to unleash the powerful dynamics that are inherent in a collision of spirits in an unworthy fashion, you could find yourself totally destroyed. To phrase this thought a bit differently, this is an area where Christ's admonition to count the cost is superb advice.
Once the Matthew 18 cycle has begun, and passed the initial stage of an attempt to work it out privately, it is likely that it will run its full course. If you, as a believer, confront someone that you feel has wronged you, and that party instead finds fault with you, your dilemma has now changed substantively. In other words, after the first private reproof, if your opponent now turns the principle of a private confrontation back at you, and says 'I have this against you,' he (or she) may believe you have wronged them, and then your opponent ("thy brother" in the passage), has the same right to follow his understanding of how to resolve a conflict within the body of believers.
At that point, you would then have a double responsibility. You can either go to the next stage of the formula ("take with thee one or two more [as] witnesses") or respond in contrition to the reproof that has now been leveled at you. What I'm saying is, the matter could quickly escalate, and if you went into it without counting the cost, you may be very sorry.
A good analogy to this eventuality would actually be illustrated in a lawsuit. You've sued someone, and they've counter-sued you (ironically, this is usually called a cross-complaint). Now, suppose that after a while, you think better of your actions, and decide you don't really want to litigate with this person after all, so you decide to drop your lawsuit. However, even if you drop your offensive action, you're still being sued in the counter complaint. In short, you can't just turn these things on or off like a faucet.
Another analogy might be a bad fight between spouses. Your wife or husband did something rather offensive, and despite their contrition, you've decided to stay angry. In fact, you want to be angry - even though the scriptures plainly state "let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). By the time you're ready to forgive your spouse, they may have decided to leave because your unreasonable anger turned out to their "last straw" - and you had no idea your relationship was actually that close to the edge. To put it simply, conflict is explosive, so the moment it begins, you need to "be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).
Tell It To The Church
The third stage of this can quickly escalate into a wide-open religious war. As Christ has stated, if the offending brother "shall neglect to hear" the "two or three witnesses," the third stage of conflict is to "tell it unto the church." Once the matter has gone this far, it's almost impossible to undo the damage that has been done. In the colloquial country expression, it doesn't help to close the barn door after the horses have escaped.
This is, incidentally, the very procedure the Apostle Paul was dealing with when he insisted there must be at least "one that shall be able to judge between his brethren" (I Corinthians 6:5) within the confines of the church. Indeed, if there "is not a wise man among you" (ibid) that has the aptitude and spiritual depth to judge among battling believers, what does that say about the church itself?
In our complicated world, things are rarely as simplified as they sometimes appear in the scriptures; yet these are universal principles, and the LORD fully expects His people to abide by them. What is rarely seen is how the churches categorically refuse to wield the authority the Scriptures mandate is appropriate in certain instances.
For example, I once knew a very popular pastor who had a laid-back charismatic quality about him that made his ministry very appealing. In his church, a popular man had a pattern of secretive sexual relationships with various women he encountered in the fellowship. As he was considered a good 'catch,' he ultimately married one of them, and when the marriage fell apart, his activities continued unchecked with one low profile conquest after another. The pastor knew what was occurring, but did not want to take the unpopular, and seemingly judgmental action, of booting the lecherous lothario out of the church.
A number of people were gravely damaged through the inaction of Pastor Peoplepleaser, but finally his own 'chickens came home to roost' as the pastor himself became the victim of an extra-marital affair that destroyed his marriage and his ministry completely. We do indeed reap what we sow.
Once a conflict has reached stage 3 and the injured party has arranged to "tell it unto the church" (Matthew 18:17), the passage plainly implies that this rather nebulous entity known as "the church" will confront the offender. Whether or not this is just a pastor and an elder believer, or some others the matter has been delegated to, is not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that Jesus then moves to the last stage when he states that "if he neglect to hear the church" (Matthew 18:17), the final step of treating the offender "as an heathen man and a publican" will be initiated.
Before we go there, what if the "church" refuses to act or intervene? What if the person you're in conflict with attends some other "church" - what then? It's almost certain that a truly injured party will be given a form of double-talk when contacting a church with this type of problem. For instance, the last straw in my relationship with Calvary Chapel, where I spent years in fellowship, was over this very issue.
I was being sued by a Christian who was in fellowship at the parent church location in Southern California at the same time that I regularly fellowshipped there. To put it simply, a conflict exploded very suddenly, and instead of a "Matthew 18," I got a subpoena. Very troubled over the matter, I called the church to ask for some form of intervention or counsel. After explaining the circumstances and asking for a "Matthew 18 style meeting," the person that arranged appointments for the leadership told me in no uncertain terms "oh, that was for the first century. We don't do that now."
Before a reader sympathetic to that assembly accuses me of the classic "root of bitterness," I'll hasten to add I harbor no malice at all as I've learned this is routine in virtually every church. Thus, I recite the matter in the context of this article as my concern here is for young believers that have yet to realize the corporations they sustain with their presence and tithes are not actually the "church" at all.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I rejoice that I got sued - even though the subsequent legal tangle cost me a considerable "chunk of change" and an equal amount of emotional distress, I also learned about the shifting sand I had built my house upon; that sand being the assumption that these scriptural premises would be followed by the individuals representing themselves to be Christians.
At the risk of belaboring the issue, it took awhile for me to come to the truth of the matter, but I ultimately took full responsibility as the fault was not with the "brother" that I had the problem with, or the "church" that refused to abide by the New Testament imperatives that are in black and white. The fault was mine, because I had failed to examine the truth concerning what constitutes genuine Christianity, and Christ-like behaviour.
I chose to get in a commercial relationship with a professing "Christian" that demonstrated by their deeds that they were anything but a Christian. And I developed a loyalty and an affinity for an institution that demonstrated by their works (or lack thereof) that the organization was not the "church" at all. For more on Calvary Chapel, see the book on Chuck Smith & Calvary Chapel: Sound Doctrine Or Strong Delusion.
A Heathen Man
If you find yourself in the awkward position that there is actually no "church" for you to submit yourself to in such a conflict, I've learned it doesn't matter. You must make a good-faith effort, and then make do with what you have. While it's useful and certainly more expedient to have a structured cluster of believers as a support cell for such episodes, God will always guide the sincere believer through such trials - even if their initial assumptions are wrong.
As noted in the previous example, my assumptions were wrong in a way that I did not anticipate. Since I found that I was the only one that desired to follow the formula laid out in Matthew 18, I had arrived at the last stage of the system rather abruptly. The only thing left at that juncture was for me to consider the opponent, and the church that I thought was an ally in searching out the Lord's will, to "be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matthew 18:17).
The word heathen as used here is related to Gentiles, or people that are not in the family of God - i.e. an unsaved person. In the Old Testament, the word heathen meant the same thing, but had an even more derisive connotation as Strong's Concordance renders it as the equivalent of "animals" and even the more contemptuous "locusts" - all terms indicating that a heathen is to be shown no honor whatsoever.
The term publican is equally vile as it referenced dishonest tax collectors that were despised by virtually everyone - and especially Jews. James Freeman, the editor of Manners And Customs of the Bible writes "they were alluded to as occupying the lowest position in morals, the vilest of the vile..." (page 412). Thus, Christ was plainly indicating that a person that has refused all reasonable reproof towards Godly behaviour has forfeited any privilege of being treated as a "brother," and should instead be considered a completely despicable wretch, unworthy of even the slightest degree of honor.
Needless to say, if such a person's activities warranted it, and a judicial aggression was the only appropriate course of action in bringing about a remedy to a serious problem, a lawsuit against such an individual would be a completely proper and appropriate act on the part of a Christian.
To put it another way, the admonition of the Apostle Paul is completely inapplicable towards a believer in conflict if - and it's a big if - he or she has actually, honestly, and legitimately fulfilled the obligations specified by Christ in Matthew 18.
The Lawless One
What is absolutely indispensable in this arena is that we recognize these procedures are not part of the Old Testament law - they are part of the law of God that He promised He would put "in [our] inward parts, and write it in [our] hearts..."(Jeremiah 31:33). The New Testament tells us God has made us "able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter of the law killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (II Corinthians 3:6). What we must grasp is the Spirit that is implicit in these teachings.
Most believers know that the LORD uses conflict and turmoil to get our attention. This is widely illustrated in dozens of passages. Isaiah puts it nicely when the Lord says "I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin..." (Isaiah 1:25). God uses external circumstances to bring people to Him; yet many who think they are spiritually on track are not, and subsequently fail to recognize that God is still using the same procedure to get their attention.
The spirit of Antichrist has long ago captured the world, but few recognize "that hideous strength" (with apologies to C S Lewis) has also entered into the "temple" of the collective church, and inaugurated a spirit of lawlessness. The New Testament Greek word for lawlessness is anomia - and it is usually translated as iniquity.
In II Thessalonians, we learn about the "mystery of iniquity" - or the mystery [think Spirit] of lawlessness. This is what was being restrained by the restrainer in chapter 2. The text tells us this mysterious evil was "already" at work, and projects that it will eventually consume the church - something that I believe has already occurred.
Prophetically speaking, this Spirit of Antichrist has replaced the law of God with the incredibly dysfunctional law of man. As man seeks to build a world without the law of God (internally manifested in our hearts or externally on stones of tablets), he has become lawless. This is the "mystery of iniquity" and it will be culminated in the enthronement of one man - the Antichrist, who is also seen as the lawless one.
Because the church has refused to function in the Spirit of truth and be obedient to the ways of the Lord (the great "falling away" of II Thessalonians 2), it has caused the true sheep to be scattered.
Thus, we find the role of the church in this procedure has been completely nullified. To put it in Christ's terms, "the salt [has] lost his savour...it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). This is the judgment that begins at the house of God, for Christ will "cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds" (Revelation 2:22).
However, Jesus tells the individual believer that even though "the salt [church] have lost his saltness," as members of the remnant body of Christ, He instructs you to "have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another" (Mark 9:50).
The harlotry of the so-called Christian church has now defined practically everyone as a "believer," and as a result, if and when a conflict spills into the legal arena, the party that has taken the scriptural steps is commonly castigated as an evil and foul person because he has taken a "brother" to court. Yet, if a party has followed the Matthew 18 formula in the true spirit of God, and his opponent has not, one party has plainly demonstrated that he is the equivalent of a "heathen" and a "publican" - and is most certainly not a "brother."
Unfortunately, the corporate church's false doctrine is almost all pervasive and incredibly lawless, and the result is the "heathen" of Matthew 18 routinely seeks to be identified as the "brother" of I Corinthians 6!
What is ironic here is, the very churches that refuse to fulfill their obligation in conflict frequently generate the doctrinal distortion that teaches their hapless students to revile those who have taken the scriptural course of action! In short, everything in the church is indeed broken.
A Case History
Another anecdotal account is in order. In more than one ministry clash I've experienced, a friend or associate began a course of behaviour I found to be inconsistent with Scriptural behaviour. In one particular case, I found the behaviour of a close associate to be thoroughly unscriptural; however, he saw things differently.
Unfortunately, as the disagreement escalated, instead of responding to my reproof, this person began to publicly criticize me. His newly perceived dissatisfaction with my doctrinal output rather conveniently coincided with my refusal to countenance his unscriptural behaviour. In short, I believed his newfound criticism to be a transparent effort to deflect attention from his poor choices, so after concluding he was not going to change course, I made a public statement disavowing any association with the man.
This began a non-stop public campaign of accusations against me and several others associated with this ministry. The offender began to attack virtually every one of his former ministry friends, and even began slandering relatives of mine that he had never even met. Over a period of time, this man falsely (and publicly) accused me of numerous acts of criminal behaviour.
After over 2 years of unconscionable attacks on me, and after learning that innocent parties were being injured in what had became a war of words, I resolved something had to be done. After proceeding through the Matthew 18 steps I just described with progress, I wrote to the now former "brother" (concluding he had transitioned to the role of "heathen" based on his lack of response), and gave him an ultimatum: cease and desist NOW, or I will file suit. The accusations escalated, and I filed a lengthy and detailed lawsuit, which wound its way through the notoriously slow machinery of the court system.
Although the jury's judgment in the case found I had indeed been slandered, after such a long and emotionally draining episode, there was little consolation, and virtually no relief granted. During the course of the lawsuit, we were awarded a modest amount of money which our opponent has not paid. Six years after the episode began, he continues to regularly attack and accuse me, so virtually nothing has changed -- except we're out substantial legal fees.
It's now been many years since the conflict began, so this person's obsession with me is self evident. the only logical and reasonable course of action now is to simply ignore what is likely to be an ongoing antagonism that will consume him for balance of his lifetime. We believe the LORD will ultimately avenge the pain this ungodly individual has caused, so we await His ultimate retribution. After all, if we never see an example of a genuine "root of bitterness" that defiles, there would not have been much point in Christ warning us to avoid it.
We consider the clash over, and have moved on, but the repercussions are still affecting others. In other words, I told you that story to tell you the following tale.
The Infectious Spirit Of Antichrist
In the process of attempting to wage a war of public opinion against, my former friend attempted to widely publicize the accusation that I have sued a "brother" in the LORD - once again attributing wrongful behaviour to me. As the conflict I just described continued to unfold, I experienced another insight into the processes that had been unleashed.
Another individual, a completely separate party whom I've never met (who represents himself to be a believer in Christ), apparently discovered the multitude of accusations made against me. This person is the leader of an Internet forum - one of those curious entities that "posts" Internet messages to a select list of readers. This party, who we'll call "Steve," chose to place many inflammatory lies on his forum that were taken from our enemy in the lawsuit described above. Basically, he chose to place the inaccurate allegations on his web list and sent that out to several hundred people.
One of our friends who was on Steve's list sent me the vitriolic material that was being posted on the "Christian" Internet forum. It was defamatory, libelous, and completely false; and even though "Steve" was notified that litigation was under way (an action clearly challenging the veracity of the accusations), he chose to repeat the slanderous statements without even bothering to look into the facts.
On the forum where "Steve" libeled me, I also noticed he had placed several favorable posts, including Internet links, to rapture teachers and ministries with whom I have theologically clashed in the past. Chuck Missler, who is profiled in my book The Rapture Cult, was favorably mentioned. Another Internet rapture figure named David Bay was also favorably mentioned - and once again, we have a critical examination of this person's doctrine as well, on our cmediaresearch.com archive.
It might be noted that while I am pointedly critical of the doctrine of these individuals, I don't slander them with personal slurs. I don't claim they are car thieves or on drugs (accusations which have been made against me), and I don't seek to defame their relatives by accusing them of egregious behaviour. Although it's a fine line, our stance is one of scriptural reproof, not personal slander such as that which we've been besieged with.
I emailed "Steve," and sought to approach him in the Spirit of the Lord with a gentle interaction to seek to correct the false accusations that he had made to hundreds of believers on his list. Significantly, at that point in time, the court had already issued a ruling indicating our opponent had lied, and rendered a preliminary judgment in our favor.
However, I also knew that the spirit that has attached itself to our accusers "walketh through dry places" and constantly seeks another "house" to occupy (Matthew 12:43). Below are excerpts of my correspondence with "Steve," the leader of a "Christian" Internet forum:
I don't know if you are someone I've clashed with in the past, or whether or not your recent post on the forum was retaliatory or not, but I would like to ask you to post a rebuttal to the damage you have now done to our ministry by repeating the false tales of [our opponent] to your group. In this conflict, we are now litigating [a] complex civil suit for Slander, Libel, and Defamation of character.
As a minister of the Gospel, our reputation is important. After over 2 years of being libeled, we were forced to bring suit as he is brazenly fabricating many, many things...in addition to a multitude of falsehoods he has circulated in order to defame Christian Media. We are being systematically harassed through these efforts, and there are multiple lawsuits already underway. Since you saw fit to repeat his fraudulent claims without any background explanation, I would ask that, in the interests of fairness, you post this email essay online wherever you have posted the former piece.
Because litigation is now in progress, I am limited as to what I can say here. Suffice it to say that we believe we will prevail and this man's "ministry" will be exposed for what it is: a malicious and inaccurate attack on innocent people that simply refused to condone his ungodly ways.
A day later, "Steve" had not responded in any way. Because an extremely unfair and false impression had been made through Steve's posts, and I wanted to correct the erroneous data while it was still fresh, I decided to email him again. That second email is below.
I'm not certain if you received my prior email so I thought I would try again. This contact is in the spirit of Matthew 18 as you have placed extremely derogatory information concerning our ministry on a forum. That information is inaccurate and hotly disputed. Below I've cut and pasted yesterday's email to you at the group email address. Because we have done a complete step by step Biblical confrontation of the individuals, and they refused all reproof even as a multitude of witnesses came before them, we have been forced to confront these slanders. As I have not heard anything back from you, I'm hoping that you're simply very busy and not ignoring this request because we make a good target.
I note your placement on your forum of a couple of people we have problems with theologically, however, this is not the same matter. We are being called liars, thieves and criminals in the posts you placed online, and in the interest of fairness in a SCRIPTURAL context, I would again ask that you seriously consider this request. I hope to hear from you.
That evening, I heard back from the forum leader. Ignoring the fact that I had specifically stated that, as believers, we had gone through the required scriptural procedure as detailed in Matthew 18, "Steve's" response was to tersely reply with a citation of I Corinthians 6:1-4. There was and no content to his "communication" at all -- only the verses to that chapter (the chapter cited at the beginning of this article about not going to court with brethren). It seemed obvious to me that "Steve" would rather not have to respond at all to my attempts to get him to account for his attack.
I wrote him a third time, still attempting to come to him in a reasonable, Biblical fashion, without any fiery denunciations, or inflammatory rhetoric. I was, however, a bit more forceful:
If I read this email correctly, your response is to simply quote scripture without addressing my questions and/or request at all. This is now my third attempt to simply ask you to consider and/or interact in a reasonable fashion on this subject. Evidently you have judged me for filing a lawsuit in this matter (based on your citation of I Corinthians 6), however the SCRIPTURAL procedure for conflict related in Matthew 18 was strictly followed. We took multiple witnesses to our opponent and he repeatedly refused any reproof. Telephone calls were placed and recorded with everyone's permission. Letters have been exchanged.
There is a considerable body of information with this, so it is completely inconsistent with the preponderance of SCRIPTURE to quote SCRIPTURE out of context to excuse an unfair maligning of our ministry on your forum. Having followed what the Word told us to do, and having been slandered for 3 years now, we took the SCRIPTURAL course of action and are treating him as a heathen; thus the passage you have cited in I Corinthians 6 does not apply.
Instead of a blanket dismissal, there are many facts here. Please look again at my request.
This third email apparently convinced this person that I was intent on getting some sort of response. "Steve" finally began to interact, but his attitude was hardly one of a "brother" that had been gently called to task for a conflict. Below is his second email:
Nothing was taking out of context, you people obviously love money, and things said have hurt your god (money) flow.
39 But I say unto you, Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever will compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not away.
You should drop all your lawsuits, and make piece with that man, if he does not want peace, drop it. Let God deal with him.
Also you have not been very fair to people, you slander then constantly, as I have witnessed on your website, and you have an ungodly spirit to attack those who are not Legalist or Hebrew Roots Cultists. You attack the Rapture and call them Cultist and have the gall to attack back when God sends you punishment.
Repent Mr.. Lloyd. Stop being a hypocrite. Steve
Now it became clear that "Steve" had a theological "axe to grind" with me, and this was not an innocent or inadvertent attack on Christian Media at all. His opening remarks were highly critical and unrelated to the issues in any way. He's clearly angry, as he claimed "you people obviously love money, and things said have hurt your god (money) flow."
This plainly demonstrates that this "Christian" leader already holds us in contempt and I don't even know him. The inconsistency in his position is amazing. On the one hand, he seems to concede the attacks are unfair as he urges me to drop the legal action and "let God deal with him." Yet, on the other hand, he himself has just placed those same inaccurate slanders on his own Internet forum!
It's also useful to note how he again cites scripture out of context, as we are not the party that has been sued ("if any man will sue thee...") In his last paragraph, he finally comes out in the open, and admits that he has perused our website, and apparently because he does not agree with our theological position, was willing to attack us with fiery darts of dubious origin. In essence, this unnamed party has taken the scandalous data from a source whose veracity has clearly been called into question, and used it to unilaterally attack Christian Media before his own constituency.
Like all human beings, I don't have an inexhaustible supply of patience. I've grown very exasperated with people like "Steve." While professing themselves to be Christian leaders, these people liberally quote Scripture, but they've made "the word of God of none effect through [their] tradition..." (Mark 7:13). Because we have already determined that we will no longer walk away from the intentional spreading of lies that are related to the existing slander lawsuit, I determined to press forward with "Steve" and still attempt another round of Matthew 18.
Now we're getting somewhere. You have now indicated that, as I suspected, you have some familiarity with the Christian Media ministry, and it is plain to see that you are clearly predisposed to let the ungodly and unfair accusations that you have repeated on your forum stand without any refutation, rebuttal, or data at all. Furthermore, you are now accusing us of following Mammon - based on a completely one sided presentation of information.
Do you have any accountability structure with your ministry? At this point, you have rebuked me and you remain unidentified - once again, hardly a scriptural approach.
I wish to bring a 2nd witness to you that is aware of this entire episode as I contend you are treating us unfairly. Once again, the BIBLE tells me how to behave and I am going to attempt to follow that mandate as I have in the existing conflict. Your Internet forum says your group is focused on a study of the Bible conducted by a particular pastor. I would like to interact with him to bring this SCRIPTURAL problem to him.
Will you now allow me to take this to your associates/accountability, or will you continue to hide behind the anonymity of an email name?
I received the following terse email in short order:
Go AWAY, I never give my real name, never will. To many nuts like yourself out there, let this be your last email to me. Steve
Now "Steve" is refusing to be identified in any way. One can't help but wonder why anyone would take Christian leadership instruction from an unidentified individual, for we find the anonymity inherent in the Internet to be one of the primary reasons the medium is such a spiritual cesspool. This person is now refusing any accountability whatsoever, and after having publicly libeled me to several hundred people, and telling me how I am to behave in a scriptural manner, he himself refuses to be bound by any scriptural mandates at all. I sent him one final correspondence.
This is absolutely amazing! Your opening response to me was as follows:
I Corinthians 6:1-4
1 Dare any of you, having business against another, be judged under the unjust, and not under the Saints?
2 Do ye not know that the Saints shall judge the world? If the world then shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge the Angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set up them which are least esteemed in the Church.
We have now reached an impasse, in a conflict, and I now quote these verses to you. I have this against you that you have unfairly libeled the Christian Media ministry on your forum. You have UNSCRIPTURALLY attacked our group, repeated a baseless slander from a complete reprobate, and when confronted these are the verses you responded with. I am now asking you to stand by the very verses you quoted, and bring this to someone, any elder or pastor, in your "church" - and your response is to tell me to "go away?"
Worse yet, you are now exposed as an anonymous accuser of the brethren, for you say you never provide your true identity? You sir, are a coward, and your true nature will be exposed for all to see. The LORD rebuke you.
At this juncture, this should have been the end of the matter as other spiritual principles come into play. Christ told us "whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city [or website], shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them." (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11). However, the story does not end there.
About a week later, I learned that this person has more than one forum. He went to his second forum, another Internet Christian group, and again posted the scurrilous accusations! He introduced the slander with the following:
"Crazy and evil days we are living in my friend, also beware of the Christian Media of James Lloyd, he is now attacking me privately in email because his money collections have dwindled because the truth about him has been made known. Do not support this man, he believes in suing Christians which is unbiblical, just to make his so-called ministry a money maker again."
Unfortunately, we're told this forum has over 1,000 Christians as members, so I've now been cruelly libeled before a thousand people, by an anonymous person, who shows no spiritual discernment whatsoever.
When I became aware of the attack I just described, the LORD placed one word in my heart. It was LAWLESSNESS. The scriptures tell us the "man of sin" is the epitome of lawlessness, and as the world and unregenerate "believers" are slowly being conformed to the image of the beast, they are all becoming antichrists. So-called Christian leaders like the ones profiled here are completely lawless. Their rebellious natures won't allow them to respond to the law of God that is revealed in the heart of a truly born again believer in Jesus Christ.
As significant numbers of "brothers" refuse to respond to the law of God, when the extreme cases of conflict go unresolved, the battle periodically ends up in a venue operated by the law of man. Reprobates such as those described in this essay then routinely reverse course, and seek the shelter of the law of God - the prohibition of believers litigating with believers. Thus, they look for relief from the very procedure they have already refused to follow. In short, they want it both ways.
Today's "believer" commonly quotes Scriptures that unilaterally benefit their own position. When they refuse to abide by the spiritual laws that God has written in the hearts of a born again Christian, they demonstrate that they are not truly His children. This is the deeper lesson of Matthew 18, and when it is truly understood, a genuine "brother" will tremble at the power that is being unleashed in this dynamic.
As I've studied the phenomena of spiritual warfare, I've learned that it is the collision of spirits that catalyzes divergent points of view, and causes the players in the drama to yield themselves to one of two spiritual sources of power. Either they will come together in the truth, or one (and sometimes both parties) will turn away from the required behaviour, and be given over to a spirit of strong delusion. In other words, the Spirits behind the conflict compel the parties to be consolidated in an "either or" position.
It's likely that "Steve" was already marginal in his alleged "walk" with the Lord, in that the indications are he is holding to significantly false doctrine. This clash has placed him in a horrible position before God, for he has now become an accuser of the brethren, and if he was saved at all, he is now in serious danger of hell fire. Jesus taught us a bit more about this in Matthew 18, and I've saved that portion for this very time.
After going through the methodical steps concerning conflict that are recorded in Matthew 18, Jesus added one more powerful aspect to the process of conflict. He had just stated the portion of the verse where the matter is to be told to the church, and if the respondent refused to hear the church, he is to be considered as a heathen. Then Christ said
"Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)
Jesus is telling us that He has given us enormous authority. Obviously, power cannot be released unless we are able to maturely handle it, but if we take His words seriously and legitimately follow His teaching with a clean heart, that power will be manifested. Because the believer's life is actually in the heavens, Jesus is telling us we have influence in such matters before the throne.
In Ephesians, we learn that the true believer's Spirit is presently situated in the heavenlies. The text tells us that God "hath quickened us together with Christ...And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5, 6).
Our presence in the heavens is related to the power we have to bind or to loose in the earthly realm -- something that Christ said affects events in the heavens. It should be obvious that our activities in this world affect our spiritual standing in the realm of the spirit, but it goes even further than that.
Peter hints at this just a bit when he speaks of harmonious relations in marriage as the two are "heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (I Peter 3:7). Paul also deals with this power, in writing about an extreme offender, for he tells the Christians they possess the "power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Corinthians 5:4, 5).
This spiritual authority has been lost to the corporate churches because God will not grant them power when they are not in obedience to His program. Regarding such, the Lord says "I will...punish the men that are settled...that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil" (Zephaniah 1:12).
This is why the modern disciples of Jesus do not widely manifest the power seen in the apostolic era. Although Peter and Paul and the early disciples were exhibiting enormous power "and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43), such manifestations are exceedingly rare at this point in time.
However, I am convinced that it is in the spiritually fiery collisions, such as those described herein, that we will see the true power of God manifested in these last days. And when those challenges come, each and every one of us would do well to recognize what is occurring.
"Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you" (II Corinthians 13:3, 4).
As the events of the end of the age continue to unfold, we see these trials as designed and engineered through the omniscient foreknowledge of God, in order to purge and cleanse us of all things that are not pleasing to Him. While those in the world and the apostate church continue to degrade in a steadily escalating state of lawlessness, He continues to prepare us as vessels for His divine glory, until we see the amazing power explode that is described in Scripture as the manifestation of the Sons of God.
-- James Lloyd
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