Firstly, the Recovery is known for suing other Christians who write against them, at the least strong-arming or pressuring them to take their content down. I’m not looking to get into a law-battle with the Recovery, any of its specific churches, or any of its organizations. My only aim is to present my experience and give my opinion of that experience, detailing specific problems, and defending my opinions with biblical evidence.
The Fruit of Litigiousness
God’s Word gives Christians no grounds to sue other people. God’s Word is even explicit on the problem of Christians suing other Christians. The Recovery has sued other Christians several times. Despite these lawsuits being 10+ years old, it has never apologized or admitted wrongdoing. The Recovery has only defended itself.
A Few Examples of the Recovery Suing Christians and Publishers
- The Lord’s Recovery sued a Christian publishing company, Harvest House, for libel for $136 million. On December 1st of 2006, the Texas Supreme Court refused to review a Recovery case that the Texas Court of Appeals had already ruled in favor of Harvest House on January 5th of 2006. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court refused the Recovery’s final appeal on June 18th of 2007. Although there were many opportunities to repent and leave this lawsuit alone, the Recovery appealed until they could no more (NormanGeisler.com).
- In 1979, the Recovery church in Stuttgart, West Germany, filed a lawsuit against Schwengeler-Verlag, who had published the German version of the book The God-Men. The Recovery alleged the book was defamatory. The suit was dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiff was an improper party, and a proceeding appeal also failed (apologeticsindex.org).
- In December of 1980, Witness Lee, William Freeman, and the Recovery church in Anaheim filed a lawsuit against the author of The God-Men, the Swiss publisher of the German version of the book, and Spiritual Counterfeits Project (SCP). SCP could not defend themselves in court due to the extensive financial obligations of the lawsuit. This forced SCP into bankruptcy. SCP was removed from the lawsuit (apologeticsindex.org).
- The author of The God-Men, Neil Duddy, was still in the lawsuit from December of 1980 and eventually did not have the finances or manpower to take on the Recovery. Living in Denmark at the time, he elected not to go the U.S. and fight the legal battle. The Recovery had a default hearing (meaning that the defense, SCP, could not speak), and the judge ruled in the Recovery’s favor, an award of $11.9 million (apologeticsindex.org).
An Explicit Word Against Suing Other Christians
1 When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before 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 not competent to settle trivial suits?
3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters!
4 So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?
5 I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians?
6 Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers?
7 The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
8 But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!1 CORINTHIANS 6:1-8 (NET)
Verse 7 of this passage says that suing other Christians indicates an “already defeated” status; it’s actually a demonstration of defeat. “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” Christians should never sue other Christians.
Handling Problems with Another Christian
15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.MATTHEW 18:15-17 (NET)
In the church, which is composed of all genuine Christians, there is a way to handle a brother who is sinning. If a brother refuses to listen to the church, God’s assembly of Christians, then he should be treated as a Gentile, a pagan, an outsider. There is no indication here that suing is permissible, especially in the context of Matthew 5:40 (below).
How to Handle Being Sued
40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your coat also.MATTHEW 5:40 (NET)
The standard of morality here is very high. Who wants to be sued for their belongings and just give the plaintiffs more than what they are suing for, especially if it is unjustified? But Christians live by Christ living in them (Gal. 2:20). Christ is the only one who can fulfill this word.
At Peace With All People
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.ROMANS 12:18 (NET)
This verse is in the context of all people. But it’s also in the context of the rest of the Bible; it doesn’t eradicate the fact that we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves when someone sues us to take our belongings (Matt. 5:40), and it doesn’t eradicate the fact that Christians can’t sue Christians (1 Cor. 6:1-8).
Not Avenging Yourself
19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.ROMANS 12:19 (NET)
This verse is in the context of living peaceably with all people; the preceding verse says that as long as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people (discussed above). But also, don’t look to try to avenge yourself. Depend on God’s wrath, not your own. How great is our God? Then do you think we really must sue our own brothers to fight our own battles? Suing a brother in Christ is actually defeat (1 Cor. 6:7).
If a brother in Christ wrongs you, handle it amongst yourselves, amongst Christians. The Christian’s responsibility, our responsibility, is to take care of our part of the peace; if someone else refuses to be at peace with us, we bear the cross; His grace is sufficient. Suing a Christian is not the biblical answer.
The Lord’s Recovery has never recanted of suing other Christians, despite how clear this problem is handled in the Bible. It has only openly justified itself.