It’s funny how we often summarize a passage of Scripture without allowing its import to really sink in. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, we see a passage of Scripture that most Christians could not quote, but which many have summarized in our minds. We know that the Bible forbids Christians from taking each other to court, from suing each other over minor offenses. We know that we are supposed to be spiritually mature enough to settle our differences or to prefer to be wronged rather than to drag the name of Christ through the mud in the court system in front of nonbelievers.
As I came across that section of Scripture in my read through the Bible, I found myself seeing a further application that I think we often miss.
1 Corinthians 6:1-4 – 1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?
Now, I have no objection to the typical and right interpretation of this passage. We ought not take trivial cases before nonbelievers to solve them for us. But I want us to think about this situation from another angle. How often do we fail to bring major life decisions to others in the body of Christ to help us consider and pray through them before we make those decisions? How often do we fail to take advantage of the wisdom of God given to believers to protect us from making unwise choices? How often do we make our decisions and then tell the church what we are doing rather than allowing people (who will eventually judge angels as Paul told us) to help us think through life-altering plans?
Here are two examples. A single woman is part of a church. She does not, however, share her life and struggles with others. Her life is her own. One weekend she is not at church, and nobody knows why . The next weekend she is back with a man in tow. She lets us know that she is now married. Or a family which is a major part of the body comes to church one Sunday with an announcement. They are moving to a new city. The dad is taking a new job in his company and they will soon be packing up the house and the kids and heading off to a brand new city.
Now, let me be really clear. I have no desire to think that the church should control such decisions. WE are not one of the cults who exercise absolute authority over an individual’s decisions. But, and this is the point I think, should not a wise and growing Christian allow other wise and trustworthy Christians to speak into those decisions? Does it not make sense that the elders of the church ought to have some knowledge of what a person is considering when it is a major life plan?
In both of my examples, actual examples from real life, I have seen them go extremely badly when, in truth, the elders of a church could have prevented the problem. In the case of the single lady getting married, it turned out that she got married to a man she met on line and had not wisely assessed his actual commitment to Christ. It turned out she married a deceptive man without a genuine faith. And I knew, immediately after meeting this guy, that he was a fraud. Had she sought the counsel of the elders, we could have saved her a ton of pain and actual physical danger. But she chose to make her own call about her own life and short circuited God’s plan for her protection.
In the case of the family, the same sort of thing can happen. All the dad could see was an opportunity for career advancement. But he and the wife did not consider whether or not there was a healthy church into which they could settle. Nor did the dad consider the implications of moving his kids at their particular stages of life. He just saw promotion, assumed it was best, and put the family into a really hard spot. Again, the elders of the church might not have prevented the decision, but certainly could have helped the family navigate the move and the church transition far better.
No, I do not want the responsibility of telling everybody how to make every decision. But, is it not obvious that, when we are in a position to make life-changing decisions, we should seek the counsel of the church elders? When we do not do so, we most assuredly short circuit the plan of protection that God has placed over us in our Christian lives. God has given us the church for a reason. He has given us elders for a reason. God has shaped the church body with wise, God-centered men and women who can give us biblical counsel as we consider what steps to take in our lives. And when we ignore the counsel of the wise and the wise counsel of the elders, we extend our risk beyond the protection of the body to our own hurt.
So, perhaps the next time you have a major life decision to make, consider sitting down with your elders (or pastor if your church does not have a plurality of elders—though it should). Talk to a trusted small group leader or Sunday School teacher. Stop making major decisions on your own. I know that we push back in pride, declaring this to be “my life.” But God has a plan to protect us with the wisdom of others in the body. Let us not short circuit that. Instead, let us call on the wisdom of those who will judge the angels to help us navigate the world in which we live.