(This is part four in a series. To view the other posts in this series click on “Klemet Preus” in the Brothers CafÃ©.)
I Corinthians 6 never explicitly mentions “Lawsuits.” What it speaks against is bringing “matters” before the judges of the world. These “matters” can be lawsuits. Similarly they could be simple disputes over watering rights of sheep or how much vacation time a pastor should get. The Greek word is “Pragma” from which we get all sorts of English words. The meaning of the word is roughly “disputed matter.”
In I Corinthians the “disputed matter” seems to be matters of property. One commentary says precisely that, “In the expression pragma echon (“having a lawsuit or dispute”), Paul means to include different kinds of property cases (v. 7).”  When Paul says “Why not rather be cheated?” he seems obviously to be talking about being cheated out of money or property.
In the case under discussion we are talking about the property of a trademark. On December 2, 2008 the legal representative of the synod brought on behalf of the LCMS a “Notice of Opposition” against Harry Madsen for his application for the Issues etc. trademark. While this action may not be a lawsuit per se it clearly is a “disputed matter” according to the definition of the term “Pragma” in I Corinthians 6. And the “disputed matter” was brought before “ungodly” or secular arbitrators.
Was such an action a sin?
If our analysis of President Kieschnick’s letter of February 26, 2009 is correct (see my previous blogs) then, in his mind, such an action would necessarily be contrary to I Corinthians 6 and therefore sinful. We will say more about this in subsequent blogs. Thankfully, President Kieschnick is incorrect in his understand of the Bible in this matter.
The last thing we would want to do is point fingers to find out who should be pressured to repent or to ascertain who we should humiliate at the next synodical convention. At the same time it might be helpful to all involved if we could figure when bringing a “disputed matter” regarding property matters before the secular officials is wrong.
Here Paul Gerhard, 17th century orthodox Lutheran Theologian, can help us. He says, “Now this is what the apostle really censures and disapproves among the Corinthians: that they attack each other with condemnatory and unjust action although they are brothers and in fellowship with each other in the same faith…therefore, he does not simply rebuke the Corinthians because they engage in lawsuits and go to court, but because one injures the other and condemns him and then later drags him into court. Therefore, Paul condemns the antecedent action, not the consequent action…He does not condemn the remedy of the litigations, the going to court, but the vice (litigatiousness).” 
Like Gerhard, I would personally be very reluctant to label as “sin” the action of the synod’s attorney simply because a “disputed matter” was brought to the secular courts. There was no apparent intent to condemn Harry Madsen or the brothers at Issues etc. At the same time such a dispute over property is precisely what I Corinthians is speaking about. And while the legal action itself may not be a sin there does seem to be a feistiness or litigatiousness behind the whole action.
Further, while Matthew 18 may not directly apply since it speaks to private matters and intends to protect reputations, there is a certain Christian wisdom which suggests that one Christian talk to another before secular judges are brought into the matter. And this is precisely what the Synod through its board of directors and legal council did not do.
So, leaving aside for the moment whether or not such a precipitous action was sinful, we can certainly say that it does fall within the critique of I Corinthians 6 and is something which Paul would deplore.
But then there is the question of motive. This thorny issue will be discussed next.
 Expositors Bible Commentary Vol. 10 Frank Gaebelein ed. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids 1976) 221
 John Gerhard Loci Theologici (Tubingen 1776) 14:143. Sited by Christian Preus “Protector, Leader, and Benefactor: the Modern Lutheran Lay Leader in the Shoes of the Lutheran Prince” in The Pieper Lecture Ed. John Maxfield (St. Louis, CHI and Luther Academy 2008) 53.