With COP26 taking place and the subject of climate change at the fore-front of everyone’s thinking and concern, amongst all the words that I have read in the newspapers and online, I came across an article which really made me think. I have adapted it here and made my acknowledgement at the end. I hope it makes you think too, about how we can each play our part in solving probably THE biggest problem we are currently facing.
It is our biggest challenge, as it means giving up some, or even much, of what we are so used to having. Nothing is free in this world and for too long we have been used to having what we want, when we want it, without too much thought to the cost for the planet and other people. So maybe, from a moral perspective, the way to solving the deepest problems in this country and the world is by returning to an ancient idea: the common good.
Our lives together could be better. We live in what seems a shallow and selfish society, and we are in need of change — 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 revisit 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.
Being a Christian to me is not just thinking about my journey and giving me a “ticket to heaven” and being judgemental of all other people of other faiths or no faith at all. Instead, it’s a call to following a relationship that changes all my other relationships. Jesus told us a new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with our families, friends, neighbours and even strangers. This needs to include, especially, the most vulnerable of this world, and even with the people I find hard to like. This call to love our neighbour as ourselves is the foundation for re – establishing and reclaiming the common good, which has fallen into cultural, political — and perhaps even religious — neglect.
Jesus took his teaching from the Old Testament teachings in Deuteronomy, (Ch 6, v5) and Leviticus, (Ch 19, v18), where the great commandments were to love God and your neighbour. It is worth noting that all the world’s great religions say you cannot separate your love of God from your love for your neighbour. Even those who do not believe in God will agree to the idea of doing to others as you would have them do to you, (Luke Ch6, v31), – known as the Golden Rule.
While the Golden Rule has been around for thousands of years, to me, we seem to have lost a sense of its importance and its transformative power. To tackle what most people are now agreeing is the world’s greatest challenge – climate change, that threatens us all, maybe we should think about reclaiming the neglected common good and to learn how faith might help, in that important task. We need to think not just of ourselves, but the most vulnerable in our society and indeed those in the developing countries who will probably be the ones who will suffer the most if we do not make the necessary changes. Our public life could be made better, even transformed or healed, if we practiced what we believe 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 the neighbour – love ethic that is both faithful to God and the common good.
With acknowledgement to adapting an article by Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners Ministry and a contributor on Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation from the Centre for Action and Contemplation.
A Prayer for the Common Good
We pray for the grace to work for and with the poor and to learn from them.
We pray for our leaders and politicians that they can make the right decisions to avoid the destruction of our planet, due to our selfish behaviour in our throwaway societies.
We pray for an end to war and violence in all the troubled parts of our world and for a genuine respect for human rights.
We pray for the poorest parts of the world and for those in need – for people who do not have enough to eat, for those without clean water and for those with inadequate shelter.
We pray for the spirit of openness to the needs and concerns of all. We pray that as your Church, we will do what we can to faithfully spread hope to all peoples and encourage the return to, and following of, the Golden Rule.
Angie Foster – ALM Christ Church Walmsley