So I asked myself how Christ's first disciples, the Apostles, regarded man's law-courts. Did they acknowledge them or approve of them?
In chapter 4:11, the Apostle James says:
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver who is able to save or to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
The word translated 'speak evil of' is katalalew. Without referring to the dictionary one can see that this word must mean indict. And so it does, as anyone may convince himself by a reference to the dictionary. It is translated, 'Who speaks evil of his brother, speaks evil of the law.' One involuntarily asks, Why? However much I may speak evil of my brother, I do not speak evil of the law; but if I indict and bring my brother before the court of law, I evidently thereby condemn the law of Christ: that is to say, I consider the law of Christ insufficient and indict and condemn his law. Then it is clear that I do not fulfil his law but constitute myself its judge. The judge, says Christ, is he who can save. But how shall I, who am not able to save, be a judge and inflict punishments?
The whole passage speaks of human law-courts and repudiates them. The whole of the Epistle is full of that thought. In the Epistle of James 2:1-13, it is said:
(1) My brethren, let the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ be held without respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; (3) And ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgement seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (8) If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Leviticus 19:18), ye do well. (9) But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he who said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law (Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 18:17-25). (12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For he shall have judgement without mercy that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgement.
The last words have often been translated: 'Mercy is proclaimed in the courts,' and were so translated to imply that there may be Christian courts of law, but that they must be merciful.
James exhorts the brethren not to make distinctions between people. If you make distinctions, you diekriqhte, are divided in your minds, like the judges with evil intentions in the courts. You have judged the poor to be worse. But on the contrary it is the rich man who is worse. He both oppresses you and drags you before the courts. If you live according to the law of love of your neighbor, according to the law of charity (which, in distinction from the other law, James calls the 'law of the Lord'), you do well. But if you regard persons, and make distinctions between man and man, you are offenders against the law of mercy. And, having probably in mind the example of the woman taken in adultery whom they brought before Christ that she might be stoned, or the sin of adultery in general, James says that he who executes the adulterers will be guilty of murder and will infringe the external law. For the same external law forbids both adultery and murder. He says: 'Behave like men who are judged by the law of liberty. For there is no mercy for him who has no mercy, and therefore mercy destroys the courts.'
How could that be said more clearly and definitely? All discrimination between people is forbidden, every judgement that this man is good and that man evil directly indicates that the human courts are undoubtedly bad, and proves that the court itself is criminal, as it executes people for offenses and therefore itself infringes God's law of charity.
I read the Epistles of St. Paul, who himself suffered from the courts, and in the very first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans I found a reprimand which he addresses to the Romans for their various sins and errors, and among the rest for their courts (5:32):
Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Therefore thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art, who judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things. (2) And we are sure that the judgement of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. (3) And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgement of God? (4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
The Apostle Paul says that they, knowing the righteous law of God, themselves do wrong and teach others to do the same, and therefore the man who judges cannot be justified.
Such is the attitude to the law-courts which I found in the Epistles of the Apostles, and in their lives, as we all know, man's courts appeared an evil and a temptation which had to be endured with firmness, and with submission to the will of God.