Summary: Our tendency to institutionalize everything has crept into the church as well. With this the idea of limited liability has also crept into the Church. But Jesus' message is not of limited liability.
We are meditating on the topic of Fellowship this month. All of you know that we are called the Bangalore Bible Fellowship. How many of us know what we stand for, what BBF stands for? What is our purpose? I want to start with that today.
The Purpose Statement of Bangalore Bible Fellowship reads like this. “We are a body of believers, making a difference, as light and salt, at the workplace, and in the community, under the Lordship of Christ.” The three key aspects of the Purpose statement are Body of believers, light and salt and Lordship of Jesus Christ. We will dwell on each of them briefly before we close. But to begin with let us focus on the word Fellowship that differentiates us from other congregations. What is so great about a Christian Fellowship? What does Fellowship really mean in the context of the body of Christ and His Lordship?
But let us start by looking outside of the church first. What do you think is common between Vijay Mallya, Subrato Roy and Ramalinga Raju? They are all discredited business men, who got into the wrong side of the law. But if you really look at what they did and what punishment they got, you might still wonder at the proportionality of the punishment. Mallya is actually still roaming free with all his personal finances intact. Subrato Roy is still enjoying all the benefits of his personal finances. Satyam Raju though he is in Jail, still has a lot of wealth to his name and that cannot be taken away. Employees of Kingfisher airlines who do nto get their salaries. Or depositors in the Sahara ventures who lost their hard earned money etc cannot get any refunds from the personal wealth of a Mallya or a Subrato Roy. Do you know why is this so? Let us look at their companies. Let us look at the companies where our congregation members work. Kalai works for IBM. If you really look into the legal status of IBM in India, it would be known as IBM India Pvt Ltd. Same is the case with Oracle India Pvt Ltd. Or Mercedes-Benz India Pvt Ltd. What do you see common among them? The three letters Ltd. The same is the case with Mallya’s companies, whether it is Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, or United Breweries Ltd. Same with Subroto Roy’s companies; Sahara India Life Insurance Company Ltd, Sahara Next Pvt Ltd. Etc etc.
You see those crucial three letters Ltd coming at the end of every name of the organisations. What does that really mean? The Ltd stands for Limited. What does Limited really mean when it comes in the name of an institution? American Companies make it very clear. The company that Neville works for is Laureate Global LLC. LLC is the US equivalent of Indian Ltd. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. The variations of that are Limited Liability Partnerships, or Limited Liability corporations. So that is what the LLC or the Ltd stands for. It stands for the limited liability that the owners/ shareholders have in case something goes wrong. The owners of the company have only limited liability to the extent of the nominal value of the shares that they hold in a particular company. Their personal wealth is protected, and cannot be touched just because the company went bankrupt or smaller shareholders lost their life savings due the mismanagement of the owners.
I hope you get the drift of where I am going with this. In the world, Institutions are build based on limited liability. You will see this when you buy an insurance policy or you deposit money in a bank, or you download a software, or you buy a product and look at the warranty or guarantee card. In the world, relationships or institutions are built on the principle of limited liability.
Probably the only worldly institution where limited liability does not work is in the institution of marriage. One exasperated husband was complaining, “I got into the marriage thinking that it is going to be a limited liability partnership. She stole my credit card, and I am now left with no partnership, but a lot of liability.” I am sure some of us can identify with that poor man. But again jokes aside, the fact is that worldly institutions are built on the principle of limited liability.
Now let us look at the concept of Christian Fellowship. Can a fellowship work on the basis of Limited liability? Look at the purpose statement of BBF again. It starts with the words, “We are a body of believers…” Consider a body. Can the different parts of the body hold limited liability towards other parts of the body? What happens when the lungs say I will go by the limited liability concept and I will supply only limited amount of oxygen to the brain? What happens when the heart says I will pump only a limited amount of blood to the hands? What will happen if the stomach says I will supply limited nutrition to the legs? You get the picture. A body cannot exist if the members of the body go by the limited liability clause. When you are part of a body, you have to have unlimited accountability to each other. Let us remind ourselves from the bible about what does it mean to be parts of a body 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NIV) Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving 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.”