The Common Good - Our Vocation
Galatians 6:2-3: Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
Acts 4:32-35 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
My family is very patriotic. One of the proudest moments I can remember in fact, was my grandfather serving as Veteran of the Day at Walt Disney World on July 4th exactly 50 years to the day that he was sworn in to serve in World War II. I have attended numerous patriotic celebrations and have teared up on more than one occasion during them. I am proud to be an American even if sometimes I am not always proud of how our country acts. (Sort of like my being a parent of my kids.)
However, I should tell you that I have serious personal concerns about church services that I have attended or seen where the focus was the worship of America instead of God. I even saw where one church took down the cross to put up an American flag.
I do think though that there are parts of our nation’s founding documents that draw their inspiration from scripture. I believe the Preamble to the US Constitution is one of those. And as we approach the 4th of July this week, I have been thinking a lot about the general welfare clause mentioned in the Preamble, which is sometimes called the common good.
This idea of common good for society is not anywhere near original with the USA. In fact, if you study history you will find it in many societies, and it was (and is) essential to the church of Jesus Christ.
The New Testament mentions it in numerous places, and I have given just three as examples. The idea of promoting the common welfare and care for all in the church and beyond the church is a frequent theme of Pauline writings.
I love how the Message translates the verses from Galatians at the beginning of this writing: Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
We all have an opportunity to help others every day—as even many non-Christians do—but for us as Christians we don’t see this service to others as a choice. Christians understand our service to others is part of what the early church would have called a person’s vocare, or calling.
Our modern word vocation comes from this Latin term, but for those of us who are disciples of Christ, all we do in our lives is part of our vocare or our calling to walk with God.
I recently came across this story that says it well.
There’s an old story about a man who walked into a church that was under construction. He went up to one of the workers and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m sawing a board,” the man replied.
He strolled up to a second worker and asked him what he was doing. “I’m building a pew,” was his answer.
Then the visitor walked over to a third worker and asked him the very same question. “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God!” he replied. Now there’s a man who understands how his work contributes to the common good!
Whatever we do every day both big and small—exciting and not so glamorous—may we remember that they all contribute to the common good of our nation…but even more importantly to our building of the Kingdom of God.
May God bless you and all the people of this world.
Have a happy and safe 4th.