Common Good Righteousness

Our nation’s founders claimed a “self-evident” truth that all humans are equal and that our Creator has endowed us with “certain unalienable Rights.” These “Rights” were so important to the writers of the Declaration that they capitalized the word. Pursuing a just distribution of those rights makes one a good American as well as a faithful follower of Christ.

Achieving this common-good righteousness requires more than abstaining from murder or fornication or punching people in the face. Jesus drills down further into our attitudinal control center and reveals the damage we do when we disparage our neighbors’ inherent worth. He draws a causal line from devaluing fellow image bearers to murder. Murder, according to him, begins in the killer’s heart before he forms a plan in his head and eventually perpetrates it with his hands.

Therefore, by treating people who are different from us with derision, we denigrate the common good and gradually kill off whole segments of our population in soul, if not in body. Those whose ways are unlike ours tend to be hate-seeking targets for all sorts of religious posers. For proof of this we don’t have to look any further than slavery, the holocaust, or Jim Crow laws.

Kingdom subversives have an appetite for something much better, not only for what nourishes them personally but also for that which enriches their neighbors. They “seek first” this Kingdom’s righteousness for themselves and justice for those who lack their own agency and opportunity. They think, talk, act, vote, and advocate for the common good.

[Excerpted from my book: WHAT ON EARTH? Considering the Social Implications of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount]

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