Our Corporate Responsibility
Our corporate responsibility goes beyond our fellow brothers and sisters to include the community around us.
One of my hobbies is following major infrastructure projects around the world. I am especially interested in the design and construction of subway systems. I make efforts when traveling to ride subway systems by myself, even in countries where I don’t understand the language, such as Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing.
The following story is one of fits and starts. It takes place in New York City, specifically the east side of Manhattan and the Second Avenue Subway. The subway line there runs under some of Second Avenue. It was first proposed in 1920, but the first phase only started actual construction in 2007. It opened in 2017, 97 years after that initial proposal.
This isn’t the end of the story. At a July 2020 meeting regarding further phases, the MTA said it had begun the process of acquiring over a dozen properties along 2nd Ave and 125th Street through “negotiated voluntary agreements.”
If agreements can’t be reached “in a timely manner,” according to the MTA, they will take preliminary steps under the state’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law to lessen the potential for future delays to the project. In other words, they will force the owners to sell at fair market value.
The article goes on to record comments from a local residence. “That’s progress…And when there is progress, people and places get moved out of the way.” This statement is often true of such projects. Some individuals often do pay the price for progress. But many more often pay the price for no progress!
History books are full of stories that describe the sacrifice of the few for the benefit of the many. For example, the protestors of old preached the gospel despite the fear of being persecuted. And, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ, the best example in human history.
The internet is littered with articles and news stories related to protests and concerns about the Second Ave. Subway and other major public works projects. There are many similar past stories related to how progress for the many was held back by the apparent narrow view, or perhaps selfishness, of a few.
I am not trying to argue that governments can do what they wish with regard to individual property owners. My point is to consider how far we exercise our individual freedom to do what we wish at the expense of others. What is “Our Corporate Responsibility?” Our responsibility to others?
In a way, that is the core of Jesus’ sacrifice—one sinless man willingly died on the cross so that the door opened to eternal life for many. He put his corporate responsibility above his own life. What more can one do than that?
The Law of Gleaning
In Ruth chapter 2 and verses 1-3, we read,
Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Deuteronomy 24:19-21 describes a law related to gleaning:
Why was this law given? Why did the farmer have to allow strangers to pick from his field? Why couldn’t they go back and get everything that they worked so hard to grow? Deuteronomy 24:17-18 explains:
God again emphasizes his point in verse 22, when we read, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” It is important to note that this corporate or community responsibility went beyond just Israelites and also included strangers.
For us, this means our corporate responsibility goes beyond our fellow brothers and sisters to include the community around us. In other words, we cannot be self-centered. We can’t be “me, myself, and I” focused. We all know that there is no ambiguity in the self-sacrificing example of the Lord Jesus. Consider Philippians 2:5-8
We are not just responsible for ourselves, but for those around us, both those in the body of believers and those outside. How would those in darkness come to the light without us working amongst them, preaching and showing love as one of Christ’s brothers or sisters. We are members of a working body, every one of us having a particular part to play and specific responsibilities to fulfill. Recall 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and 27-28:
Let us not forget that “We are members of the body of Christ.” Our purpose is to serve the greater good of the body.
Why am I emphasizing this? In my opinion, Western culture, and perhaps civilization as a whole, is at a crossroads. Occurrences of people just helping a stranger in need are getting less frequent. Content on the internet and in the news where individuals stress their rights to do as they please without any apparent care for those around them appears to be increasing at an alarming rate.
Often difficult times bring out the best in people. But in the last year or so they appear to be bringing out the worst as well. One of my Chinese colleagues lives in Wuhan, China. He once told me one of the main differences between the U.S. and China is how people act during an emergency.
For example, he observed that, if a plane went down in a lake or on a river in the US, many of the people on the shore would jump in and try to save people. However, in China, the people would stand on the shore and watch. In my travels, I’ve found it’s not only people in the US who respond by helping.
Those from other countries that have been based on sound religious ideals focused on doing unto others as you would want to be done unto you also behave this way. For countries where Judeo-Christian ideals are prevalent, this is probably because the commandments of Christ are an underpinning of common and expected behavior.
Even laws and justice systems are based on these values. Historically, people in the U.S. and other Judeo-Christian-based countries would know the following commandments, even if they didn’t know where they came from:
1. Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you. (Matt 5:44).
2. Resist not evil. (Matt. 5:30-40).
3. Recompense to no man evil for evil: overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17).
4. Bless them that curse you; let no cursing come out of your mouth. (Matt 5:44).
5. Render not evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing. (1 Pet 3:9).
6. Pray for them that despitefully use you and afflict you. (Matt 5:44).
7. Love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matt 22:39). KJV
Again, we find a sense of community or corporate responsibility in many of Christ’s commandments. Unfortunately, much of this appears to be eroding. If this affects the world around us, then it will also affect the ecclesia.
Dangers of Humanism
I tell people that I am a globalist, not as the world defines it, but rather as the Creator has defined it. We are all God’s children. We can all accept Christ as our Savior. One of the movements that seeks to undo this is Humanism. Many think that Humanism is a logical stance that emphasizes the potential and ability of human beings, individually and socially.
It considers human beings as the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s bylaw 5.1:
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.
While there are some general truths in this statement, it removes the purpose and responsibility that we have beyond ourselves—a responsibility that goes all the way back to creation itself. Males and females were created for all species. God defined the family unit from the beginning.
Abraham and his offspring were selected as a community, as a family, as God’s ecclesia—the ecclesia set up to be a community where we help and strengthen each other. Creation wasn’t individually focused. There was a plan for salvation from the beginning—salvation for mankind and not for one man.
As I mentioned, there is one body of Christ but many members. The erosion of a community spirit is contrary to the fundamentals of ecclesial life. In the US, we are taught from a young age the phrase, “we have freedom of speech but not of the consequences.”
We all understand that, regardless of having the right to freedom of speech, there are limitations to what can be said. For example, we cannot yell “fire” in a movie theater because that would incite chaos that can lead to someone being injured. If someone were to yell “fire” without there being an actual fire, they would face consequences through law enforcement.
So, why are so many going against this? Why are so many concerned about what they consider to be their individual freedoms, for example, when they refuse to wear masks or don’t accept medical advice from the CDC to have their children wear masks in school? We have rules for no shirt, no shoes, no service, but some parents believe that somehow their rights are being compromised because medical authorities are requiring or recommending masks to be worn by their children.
It is interesting to note that mask-wearing is somewhat common in Asia. That is because, as my colleagues in Japan and China have told me, individuals feel that wearing a mask protects others from the sickness that they might be battling. In these cases, a community understanding is clearly being practiced.
What happened to our Judeo-Christian ideals? Do we remember the Ten Commandments? At least half of the Ten are community-related:
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exod 20:13-17 (KJV).
These are further reminders that our corporate responsibility is greater than ourselves.
Finally, we need to think about others first, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did. Just picture him on the cross, an innocent man, willing to die for those he didn’t even know. There are some relevant principles and practices in all of this. For example, we are to esteem our brother better than ourselves in a manner that encourages every member’s opinion to be thoughtfully considered and respected.
Scripture also teaches us to submit to each other so that when we don’t share the majority’s opinion we defer to the opinion of others, without promoting strife. We are to be hospitable, going out of our way to make all strangers feel welcome and wanted.
We are also to obey rulers, to submit to every ordinance of man for the sake of the Lord. This of course requires us to adhere to all applicable governmental laws and ordinances where they do not conflict with the commands of Christ.
We are also reminded to confess Christ freely before men, to promote the teaching of the gospel to the surrounding community, in any way possible, including public seminars, classes and outreach programs. We are also to do good to all men as we have the opportunity, give to those who ask and love our neighbor as ourselves. This means that we should contribute to the needs of the community we live in.
Let us not be like many in the world, always worrying about ourselves, but let us put others first, and above all, put our heavenly Father and his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior first. Why? Because the greatest selfless act was God’s giving of His only begotten Son and his Son’s obedience to death. We have life itself because of our Heavenly Father.
These are challenging times, and not just because of the pandemic. The moral decay of society is clear. Selfishness is rampant. Let’s be the community that thrives and flourishes because we understand and execute a corporate responsibility that is in line with the Scriptures.
As individuals, we always have a choice to do as we wish. Let’s choose to accept our corporate responsibility is God directed and that it is to be followed as we put off the old man and put on the new one. The emblems of the breaking of bread remind us of Christ’s great sacrifice. They also remind us of our higher calling as members of the body of Christ.
Peter A. Bilello,
Ann Arbor Ecclesia, MI
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptural passages are taken from the ESV