1 Corinthians 12:26
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
One of the discoveries that we made, as we moved into our new home, was that the toilet in the second bathroom leaked. So, the other day I decided to tackle the problem. I went to Menards and bought the needed items to fix the toilet. Then I began the process of dismantling and reassembling the toilet. As has often been my experience with plumbing, things did not go smoothly. First, space is limited, and so it made working on the toilet more difficult. Second, some of the old parts were reluctant to give up their place. For the next couple of hours, I labored in a cramped space, working at odd angles. Finally, I was able to put everything back together without it leaking. A major victory for me.
After I was finished, I realized that there was a cost to pay for my efforts that had nothing to do with the toilet. In my efforts to work in the cramped conditions of the bathroom, I aggravated an old foot injury. When I stepped down on my right foot, excoriating pain shot out through my toes and up my leg. For the remainder of that day, I felt generally out of sorts. I was hobbled by this for several days, making other normal activities more difficult.
Over the past several days, our nation has been hobbled by an excruciating pain. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has erupted into full scale riots across the country. In one way or another we are all feeling the pain of that one incident. Many people have tried to peacefully express their pain, while others have used this as an opportunity to unleash pent up anger and frustration in destructive ways. It was encouraging to hear that many people rallied on Sunday morning to help clean up the mess caused by those who chose violence as their response.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he explained that the church is like the human body. It is made up of many parts, which all work together for a common good. But when one part of the body malfunctions, the entire body feels it. What is true of the body of Christ is true of the community in general. Every community is designed to work together for the common good. When one part of the community malfunctions, the entire community pay the price, as we have seen.
In the human body, when one part of the body malfunctions, the rest of the body works to bring healing and restore wholeness. When the offending part of the body does not respond, we call this disease. Cancer is a prime example of this. The cells in one part of the body begin to aggressively act on their own, causing damage to the surrounding tissue and ultimately to the entire body. This is what we are experiencing as a nation right now.
There are parts of our community, on both sides of the equation, who have decided to act on their own. Both insensitive, overly aggressive police officers and unrestrained rioters are a cancer within our society that is damaging the whole. Anger, violence, bitterness and rage only foster more of the same. Brutality by some police does not restrain crime, nor does violent rioting change societal problems. Both are destructive and need to be eliminated. There is a better way.
Paul gives us the only real answer to the issues that inflame our society. It is found in Romans 12.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
What happened to George Floyd and others should never happen. But responding in anger and violence will never change that. There is only one way, to overcome evil with good. Those who went out on Sunday morning to clean up the mess that others caused are good examples of the right response.
When one part suffers, we all suffer. The Black community is suffering because they feel that they are being targeted and treated unfairly. The police are suffering because they are being vilified and unfairly being painted with a very negative, broad brush. Business owners are suffering because on the heals of the Covid-19 shut-down, their businesses have been damaged and looted. The community is suffering because we all must pay the price for the actions of the few. When one part suffers, we all suffer.
A healthy body mobilizes to fight disease. A healthy community mobilizes to fight both crime and injustice at all levels. We are in this together.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.