Francisco Cervantes - B.A., M.A., M.Div.


“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.” 1Corinthians 12:24-27

I was traveling a freeway that is a major artery of traffic in this city.  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 drove 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.  I pulled over and used the freeway call box to report the stalled car and how it affected the traffic for miles.  I was unable to get to the stalled car but I had to do something.  Soon, a tow truck appeared and the scared senior citizen driver was taken to safety.

IT became very clear to me that one action could affect so many others.  In this situation, one stalled car affected literally thousands of other drivers negatively.  My one emergency call also affected thousands positively.  That made me think about our personal actions and choices and how these personal actions can affect others.

MANY times, as Christians, we can obsess and focus only on our actions and how it affects our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We go to confession, we pray for forgiveness, and even do penance 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?

THE term, CORPORATE SIN, is something that believers have to struggle to understand and to be held accountable.  CORPORATE SIN does not mean something that companies or corporations do (though they too commit sin).   Corporate Sin has to do with our actions as a body of believers.  It is a sinful act done by many to others. 

AN example of this type of sin is mentioned in Exodus, Chapter 32.  In this accounting, 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.  When Moses came back with the tablets of stone that contained the Ten Commandments, his anger was expressed by the destruction of these tablets.  All the people of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai sinned together so that they had to atone for their sin together.  Together, they panicked, and together they made a decision to worship false gods.   Moses made them destroy the golden calf, grind up the gold and other materials, and forced them to drink it.  Together, they had to atone for their sins.

TODAY, this kind of corporate sin still exists and many believers are ignorant of their complicity in this kind of sin.  We will all be held accountable for this kind of sin because we participate by our unwillingness to challenge the group or our own ignorance of what is going on before our very eyes.  A modern example may be seen in the start of World War II.  In Germany, the voters of that country in 1933 elected a new chancellor named Adolf Hitler.  Even after seeing his evilness, his anti-Semitism, and his desire to take over the world, many continued to support his deadly and devilish plans.  How could this happen?  Yet, it did because many good people didn’t want to get involved and thereby sinned by omission and inaction.  The Lord will hold them accountable. 

BUT how about the corporate sin being committed today?  Look around you.  What are you participating in?  One obvious corporate sin is the sin of discrimination and racism.  Once again, good people stand by and watch sin happening and even participate in it for fear of being targeted by evil people.  In this country, Martin Luther King took the challenge to change people’s attitude and sin by sparking the civil rights movement.  Yet, so much must be done including changing our own personal sin of discrimination and racism.  There is still much hatred happening all the time and we will be held accountable for it.  God have mercy on us.  How about the doings of our representative government?  When evil happens at the hands of our governmental leaders, we too will be held accountable since we voted for them or remained silent when governmental wrongdoing goes unchecked and innocent people suffer.  Pope John Paul II told his Polish countrymen not to be afraid and together they brought down the communistic government that held them imprisoned for so long.  The people of Poland did not sit silent and afraid.  They made their government accountable.  The same challenge is given to us in our own country.  What do we do when we see injustice or even governmental injustice or immorality?  Once again, we will be held accountable for our part in corporate sin.  We could go on and on.   How about life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty?  How about greed in all its forms, personal and business?  How about sexual issues and fidelity in marriage and family?   I am sure that you could add more to this list. 

WHAT can we do?   We are certainly mired in sin for it is all around us.  We must speak out and do something when we see something wrong and immoral.  We must not just let things pass by if we see anything being done by others when it breaks the two great commandments of our Christian faith:  love God with all our hearts, soul, and being, and love our neighbors as ourselves (John 13:34).  Otherwise, we become guilty of sin and partaking in the sin of others.   Fear and retaliation is not an excuse for participating in corporate sin.  God doesn’t take that as an excuse to sin for it is written in the first letter of John (I John 4:18):   “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”  What is the punishment being mentioned here?  We fear the thoughts and reactions (therefore punishment) of others.  So what?  Who cares what anyone thinks?  All I care about is what God thinks of me because it is Him that is my destiny forever.  We are here for a purpose and mission and that mission is to make the love of God and the dignity of each human being present and real.  When we fail to do this individually and as part of a group of human beings, we will be held accountable for it.  But thanks be to God for his mercy and forgiveness.  Through His mercy and forgiveness, we are able to learn from our mistakes and begin to live free from fear; especially the fear of being rejected by others for standing up for what is true and good.    

"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall
the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17

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