Lesson 14: Jim Wallis’ Ten Personal Decisions

common goodThe rest of the course will focus on Christian ethics. In a sense, it will try to answer the question Derek advanced last week, “How do Christians participate in a society that not only does not accept its values, but often opposes them?” Many argue Christians should confine themselves to their own small groups at least for the time being. Jim Wallis recently published On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good that argues Christian responsibility involves active participation in society. What follows is a quote from his “Epilogue.” What do you think?

The common good and the quality of our life together will finally be determined by the personal decisions we all make. The “commons”- those places, as we noted earlier, where we come together as neighbors and citizens to share public space- will never be better than the quality of human life, or the human flourishing, in our own lives and households.

Here are ten personal decisions you can make to help foster the common good.

  1. If you are a father or mother, make your children the most important priority in your life and build your other commitments around them. If you are not a parent, look for children who could benefit from your investment in their lives.
  2. If you are married, be faithful to your spouse. Demonstrate your commitment with both your fidelity and your love. If you are single, measure your relationships by their integrity, not their usefulness,
  3. If you are a person of faith, focus not just on what you believe but on how you act on those beliefs. If you love God, ask God how to love your neighbor.
  4. Take the place you live seriously. Make the context of your life and work the parish that you take responsibility for.
  5. Seek to develop a vocation and not just a career. Discern your gifts as a child of God, not just your talents, and listen for your calling rather than just looking for opportunities, Remember that your personal good always relates to the common good.
  6. Make choices by distinguishing between wants and needs. Choose what is enough. Rather than what is possible to get. Replace appetites with values, teach your children the same, and model those values for all who are in your life.
  7. Look at the business, company, or organization where you work from an ethical perspective. Ask what its vocation is, too. Challenge whatever is dishonest or exploitive and help your place of work do well by doing good.
  8. Ask yourself what in the world today most breaks your heart and offends your sense of justice. Decide to help change that and join with others who are committed to transforming that injustice.
  9. Get to know who your political representatives are at both the local and national level. Study their policy decisions and examine their moral compass and public leadership. Make your public convictions and commitments known to them and choose to hold them accountable.
  10. Since the difference between events and movements is sacrifice, which is also the true meaning of religion and what makes for social change, ask yourself what is important enough to give your life to and for.

Finding the integral relationship between your own personal good and the common good is your best contribution to our future. And it is the best hope we have for a better life together.

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  1. Derek says:

    The ten elements here seem to line up with traditional family values. Perhaps that’s why people aren’t commenting?

    The interesting bit that came out of this for me was when I asked my wife about one of these, specifically “what most offends your sense of justice”.

    I had been thinking of the sorts of issues where you can go and protest against large groups.

    However her prompt response was “crime”. And I had to admit that seemed like a very good answer, though perhaps one without good solutions.

    There is something appealing about protesting, or getting together with like minded people to fight for something. There is something simplifying when the other side is represented by some spokesman or organization. Opposing something everyone agrees on as wrong but no one is sure what can be done lacks that appeal.

    But perhaps those sorts of things are more important. Maybe instead of expending time and resources fighting against other groups because we disagree on what is right and just we could accomplish more focusing on those things we can agree on even if they are difficult and lack clear large scale victories.

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