Rediscovering the Common Good
A Foundation for the Common Good
Monday, November 1, 2021
Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners ministry and a longtime friend of Fr. Richard’s, connects the idea of the common good with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
I believe the moral prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to an ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. . . .
Our life together can be better. Ours is a shallow and selfish age, and we are in need of conversion—from looking out just for ourselves to also looking out for one another. It’s time to hear and heed a call to a different way of life, to reclaim a very old idea called the common good. Jesus issued that call and announced the kingdom of God—a new order of living in sharp contrast to all the political and religious kingdoms of the world. That better way of life was meant to benefit not only his followers but everybody else too.
Christianity is not a religion that gives some people a ticket to heaven and makes them judgmental of all others. Rather, it’s a call to a relationship that changes all our other relationships. Jesus told us a new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with our neighbor, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, and even with our enemies. But we don’t always hear that from the churches. This call to love our neighbor is the foundation for reestablishing and reclaiming the common good, which has fallen into cultural and political—and even religious—neglect.
Judaism, of course, agrees that our relationship with God is supposed to change all our other relationships, and Jesus’s recitation of the law’s great commandments to love God and your neighbor flows right out of the books of Deuteronomy [see 6:5] and Leviticus [see 19:18]. . . . In fact, virtually all the world’s major religions say that you cannot separate your love for God from your love for your neighbor, your brothers and sisters. Even the nonreligious will affirm the idea of “the Golden Rule”: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). . . .
While some form of the Golden Rule has been around for thousands of years, we seem to have lost a sense of its importance and its transformative power. Wallis urges:
It is time to reclaim the neglected common good and to learn how faith might help, instead of hurt, in that important task. Our public life could be made better, even transformed or healed, if our religious traditions practiced what they preached in our personal lives; in our families’ decisions; in our work and vocations; in the ministry of our churches, synagogues, and mosques; and in our collective witness. In all these ways we can put the faith community’s influence at the service of this radical neighbor-love ethic that is both faithful to God and the common good.
Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided (Brazos Press: 2014), xi, 3‒4, 5.
Story from Our Community:
A United Methodist all my life, who would have thought that a Franciscan would become so influential in my spiritual journey! Fr. Richard’s meditations, books, and conferences have helped me see that being a Christian is not about having correct beliefs, but about and trying to create a peaceful world. —Margaret C.
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