Does a Christian have rights? And should we defend them if we do? There are passages in Scripture that might be understood as being against standing up for our rights in any way (Matthew 5:38-42). But is this the last word on the subject? And are Christians meant to be just helpless victims who never stand up for what is right? One passage that gives some perspective on this is 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. It forbids lawsuits between believers and regards them as an embarrassment to the body of Christ. It even says it would be better to be wronged or defrauded than to allow things to reach that point. Yet it does not totally set aside any possibility of settling disputes, but puts forth the idea of having a seasoned believer settle them. It takes a middle way.
One of our basic problems is that we want things to go our way and are often willing to go to any extreme to get it. This tendency can be increased if we have been honestly wronged (or can convince ourselves we have been). But Scripture says to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3,4; Romans 12:14-21; Matthew 7:12). We are also commanded to forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 18:21-35; Colossians 3:12,13; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). However, it is also required of Christians that they stand up for what is true and right (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Acts 4:19,20; 6:1-6). There is a hard balance here. There is a time to suffer wrongs in a forgiving manner (Acts 7:60) and a time to assert your Roman citizenship (Acts 25:11). The ultimate example is the Lord Jesus Christ, who left His throne in glory for a criminal’s cross (Philippians 2:5-11), but still boldly confronted wrong and injustice (Matthew 21:12-17; 23:1-39). While Matthew 5:38-42 forbids merely responding in kind to evil and returning blow for blow, there is also a place for pointing out what is right and just (John 18:22,23). What we really need is a stronger desire for what is right and for the good of other people than for getting our way and possessing what we want. This can be hard, and we need to pray to God for wisdom to know how to respond in particular situations (James 1:5-8). Real life is messy, and we do not always run into nice, cut-and-dried situations. But we need to trust God to bring us through the difficult places (Proverbs 3:5,6). And it is better to be defrauded than to put the truth or the people of God up for derision before the world.