I was listening to a sermon on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. We were hearing about the courage of Nehemiah and the way he spoke to the King. In some ways, getting permission was the easy part. The challenge lay ahead. In the rebuilding, the Jews, priests, nobles, officials and workers all needed to play their part.
Nehemiah addresses them. They listen, respond, act and say, “Let us start building". The writer then comments, “So they committed themselves to the common good” (Nehemiah 2:18 NRSV). Opposition follows, they are mocked and ridiculed by others and the work begins. What a motivation committed to the common good.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says the same about the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit — that the gifts are for the ‘common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7).
I reflected…What does it mean today when we affirm a commitment to the common good? It takes us outside of ourselves and into the realm of investing in the experience of others so that their well-being is lifted, and their experience of life is transformed. The common good also implies that we are part of positive change as well. We benefit as others benefit. Their well-being and ours are fundamentally linked. To invest in the common good is to invest in a new experience of community.
So, what does such a commitment mean today? Where could it lead us? Can we say that as we enter into a journey of compassion and justice with our Indigenous sisters and brothers we are doing so for the common good? Australia will not be whole until our First Peoples have justice, are healed, and experience trust and hope. Australia’s Indigenous people are the most incarcerated on earth, and as one Christian Indigenous leader said, “We are not bad people”! The common good is built in every small step we take towards reconciliation.
As we use the gifts that God has blessed us with, as we share and empower others, as we listen without judgement and respond with compassion and warmth, we work for the common good.
Rebuilding the walls was a physical response to the destruction of Jerusalem. In doing so people’s lives, outlook and perspectives were transformed. They could trust their environment again. Meaning was found in the rebuilding of their city. Friends, let us be deeply committed to the common good, in Australia and overseas.