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Monday, October 15, 2007

Corporate Sin

1 Corinthians 12:24-27 tells us, “… our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
I was traveling a major freeway the other day. The traffic slowed to a snail’s pace and I could tell from looking at my fellow motorists that the levels of frustration and negative energy were rising. Impatience turned into anger. Why were we mired in this time-consuming mess? As I got closer to the cause of this delay, I noticed that one car was stalled in the middle of the highway. There was no accident, no injuries, just a stalled car. After passing it, the traffic opened up and everyone was driving at speed limit levels.

Just one car was able to slow traffic for miles and cause such anxiety and stress. I also noticed that no one tried to help or at least try to do something. The motorists continued on their way thinking that someone else would take care of the situation.

It is clear to me, as evidenced by experiences such as this, that one action often does affect many others. In this situation, one stalled car affected literally thousands of other drivers negatively. One person stopping to help push the car off the road, or one person calling a tow truck on their cell phone --- could have made a difference. And it wouldn’t have just been a difference in the life of the driver of the stalled car. It would have made a difference in the lives of hundreds or even thousands of other drivers who were stuck in the traffic mess.

I know, some of you are thinking, “Duh, Larry!” But really, this is analogous to the rest of our lives. As Christians, we really need to see that. So bear with me.

Many times, as Christians, we can obsess and focus only on our actions and how it affects our relationship with Jesus Christ. We confess and repent for what we perceive to be our sinful actions. But how often do we actually think about the effects of our sinfulness on the body of Christ? And do we think about how our inactions also affect the body of Christ? If I am slow to confess and repent (or don’t do it at all), doesn’t that impact the body of Christ?

The concept of corporate sin is something that I suspect believers struggle to understand and would be reluctant to be held accountable for. Corporate sin does not mean something that companies or corporations do (though they too commit sin). Rather corporate sin has to do with our actions as a body of believers. It is a sinful act done by many within the whole. It is sin committed by the church.

An example of this type of sin is mentioned in Exodus, Chapter 32. The people of Israel were waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments. The people waited for a long time, too long for them. They worried that Moses was never coming back and told Aaron (the high priest under Moses) to build a golden calf so that they could feel safe spiritually and emotionally. They corporately lost faith in one God and reverted to their old ways of idolism. (And they did so in a relatively short period of time!)

Today, this kind of corporate sin still exists and many believers are ignorant about it. I suspect that the reality of their ignorance is more a matter of their ignorance of its ramifications. Corporate sin is serious business. We will all be held accountable for this kind of sin because we participate by our unwillingness to challenge the group or culture … at the very least. At worst, we may be guilty of corporate sin because we perpetuate it. What corporate sin being committed today? Look around you. It’s a part of every “corporate” body you’re a part of.

Whatever the United Nations does that is offensive to God is corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. Whatever the U.S. government does that is offensive to God is corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. Whatever your state government does that is offensive to God is a corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. Whatever your county or city does that is offensive to God is a corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. Whatever your school district does that is offensive to God is a corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. Whatever your homeowners association does that is offensive to God is corporate sin; as part of that body, you’re guilty of it. And last, but not least, whatever your church does that offends God or grieves God is corporate sin. And as part of that church body, you are guilty of it.

Wow! Did you have any idea that you were this guilty?

You know, I’m always astonished when I see the numbers of visitors to this blog. I had no idea so many people would read it. I wonder if today might be their last! Seriously, I know talk like this offends people. Unfortunately it’s truth, and it’s what God lays on me to talk about. So I have no choice. You see, I know I’m part of a corporate body of Christian bloggers. If one of us does or doesn’t do something that is offensive to God (like no obeying Him in our blogging), then I know that would be corporate sin. So continue to bear with me, while I try not to sin on this topic.

Most of us don’t have trouble seeing the wrongs committed by the U.N., federal and state governments, local governments, etc. We like to whine and complain about those things. We rage on at the injustice and stupidity of it all. In fact, that’s become quite a national past time in this country --- to entertain ourselves with the astonishing wrongs of our governments. The national debt. War. Government spending. The integrity of elected officials. Scandals. Inefficiencies. There just seems to be no end of topics we can sink our teeth into. So what can we do? How can Christ-followers respond to this kind of corporate sin?

Of course, the most fundamental thing we can do is pray. The first prayer is to confess what is sin. In other words, we confess the corporate sin to God, pray for repentance of the corporate body. We can pray for our elected officials. Ask God to give them discernment and wisdom. Pray that they would make better decisions. Pray that they themselves would have the courage and moral conviction to stand for what's right --- and stand against what's wrong. Pray for their protection against the enemy’s attacks. Pray for their families. Pray that God would draw them close to Himself. Pray that God would help create a quiet time for them in their busy days --- so that they can speak with Him themselves. Beyond prayer, there is much, much more that we can do.

We can vote and be diligent about voting in every election. We can vote responsibly. Research the candidates and pray about whom we should vote for. We can lobby our elected officials. Write letters, sign petitions, join groups that lobby for what’s right or lobby against what’s wrong (such as abortion). We can change our expectations --- and stop expecting the government to pay for everything or solve every social ill.

We can pay our taxes so that the government has the funding to do its job. In fact, we could even leave money to our governments in our wills --- and direct that it be applied specifically to the national debt. (Yes, you can do this!) Finally, we could serve as elected officials ourselves. We could be called by God to serve as decision makers in our governments --- and we could answer that call.

There is much we can do about corporate sin. We are not helpless victims here, dragged into the corporate sin kicking and screaming. So let's realize what corporate sin is and begin to recognize it in the corporate bodies we belong to. It isn't "their" problem. It is my problem! Then, let's take personal responsibility and starting doing whatever we can do to confess and repent of that corporate sin.

Tomorrow, we'll take up the subject of corporate sin in our church.

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