He’s not a Judge, but he plays one on TV

Ken Liu

Erin hired her brother Drake, a contractor, to renovate her kitchen. She pre-paid him $5,000, but a year later he still had not started the job and refused to return her money, so Erin sued him. Unlike a typical trial, there were no pleadings or rules of procedure. After letting both parties tell their stories, the judge stepped in with questions like, “Why didn’t you do the job when you said you would?” and “What was your relationship like before this dispute?” With tears in her eyes, Erin told of their loving relationship and how pained she was for losing her brother over this dispute.

In the end, Judge Harvey rendered a “verdict” for the sister, but also gave advice on restoring their relationship. The trial ended with the siblings reconciling and hugging each other. If only every trial ended like that!

Judge Steve Harvey is not a real judge. He just plays one on TV. But he knows how to tease out the essence of a dispute by letting the parties share the deeper heart issues. As the bailiff in the show said, “I appreciated when he put God first.” Although the program is merely TV, it does show how real dispute resolution and reconciliation can occur. It takes individuals who have a true listening ear and wise discernment.

Scripture admonishes us not to jump to secular courts to resolve disputes with each other. As Paul said, “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Cor. 6:5). Fortunately, in the U.S., we have networks of Christian conciliators trained to help resolve disputes from a biblical perspective. As the Institute for Christian Conciliation explains, “Christian conciliators make it a point to draw out the underlying reasons for a dispute, sometimes referred to as ‘matters of the heart.’”

Lawyers, especially legal aid attorneys, can also seek to resolve disputes by applying Christian conciliation principles in their counseling of clients and negotiations with opposing parties. As attorneys who know truth and love, it behooves us to show the world a better way of resolving disputes, a way that promotes reconciliation and healing. (See below for resources on Christian Conciliation.)

Christian Conciliation Resources

In the 1980s, CLS initiated the Christian Legal Aid and Referral Service,  offering legal and spiritual advice and conciliation services together. The program then spun off what became Peacemaker Ministries and the Institute for Christian Conciliation. See the conciliation ministry resources below for more information on Christian conciliation and specific mediation and arbitration programs.

 CLS Christian Conciliation webpage

 Christian Conciliation Service, a division of Relational Wisdom 360

 Institute for Christian Conciliation, now a program of Ambassadors of Reconciliation

 Peacemaker Ministries

Mike Schutt

Director, CLS Law School Fellows

Alanna Walker

Grants Coordinator

Michelle Williams

Law Student Ministries Coordinator


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