1 Corinthians 12:25-26
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.…
St. Paul was thinking mainly of moral, not of physical, sufferings. The Church at Corinth had been guilty of grave crimes which ought, he contends, to be felt as a misfortune weighing upon all. Does our estimate of crime correspond to the spirit of these words? It is notorious that our interest in a great trial is just that we feel in a novel. It is very interesting, very horrible, but we have nothing to do with it. We observe the criminal as if he were a wild creature in the Zoological Gardens; and then when he is convicted and sentenced we say, "He is rightly served; let us have no maudlin sentimentality; society is well rid of the rascal." And so we shut up our novel and fall back on tamer subjects — our everyday duties — till some new excitement presents itself. Now is this justifiable, Christian or warranted by the facts? Note —
I. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH OUGHT TO GOVERN A CHRISTIAN'S THOUGHT IN HIS ESTIMATE OF A GREAT CRIMINAL CASE.
1. Every criminal is, to a certain extent, the product of the spirit of the society in which he has passed his life. Just as certain marshy districts are favourable to the growth of noxious insects or diseases, so particular moods of popular feeling are favourable to the growth of crime. Of course no criminal is altogether the helpless unconscious victim of his circumstances. A man's free will is never necessarily enslaved by anything external to himself. Yet most of us are largely governed by the influences amidst which we pass our lives. For many to breathe an atmosphere of moral corruption is to become almost inevitably criminal. Now who is responsible for this atmosphere? "Not I" would be the answer of most of us, and no doubt we have not contributed directly to this or that particular crime; but have we contributed nothing to that state of feeling which makes the crime natural to the criminal? Nay, there is a general stock of moral evil in the world to which we all contribute by the sin we commit just as every small house in London does its little something to thicken the air. And this touches us all like the common atmosphere we all breathe. If one suffer, therefore, all of us should suffer with him.
2. All guilt is relative to a man's opportunities in the sight of God. Our Lord insists again and again that a man's responsibility exactly corresponds with his opportunities of knowing what is right. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin," etc. "To whom much is given," etc. This we practically ignore. We think of the poor man who has been denied our advantages as if he had acted from the same level of knowledge, etc., that we occupy. But his grave crime may, in him, mean less unfaithfulness to light and grace than what we deem our little peccadilloes. If we kept this in mind when one member suffered we should all suffer with him.
3. There should be a deep sincere conviction of our own condition as sinners before God; we shall then have no heart to be hard on others. Our own capacity for evil is only checked by the grace of God. "If it were not for the grace of my Maker," says St. , "I should have been the worst of criminals."
II. WHAT HAVE BEEN, WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE EFFECTS OF THIS CHRISTIAN WAY OF LOOKING AT CRIME?
1. The softening of the penalties of criminal law. The conscience of society stays its hand with the whisper, "Who art thou that judgest another?"
2. Constant efforts to cut up its roots by schools, reformatories, Christian charity, etc.
3. The resolve to live nearer to God ourselves. We cannot influence legislation, or found institutions for the reformation of criminals, but we can all do something within our own souls which will help to purify the corrupt moral utmost, here.
Parallel VersesKJV: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.