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Theological Rationale

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”

“The pursuit of the common good is an aspect of personal discipleship but also part of God’s calling to the social and political structures.”[1]

Honour one another and seek the common good” is a recurrent phrase in Anglican liturgy that underlines the inseparability of the personal and the social or political. It has had a particular resonance for some time as we have seen, on the one hand, the growth of individualism and consumerism and, on the other, an increase in polarisation and social fragmentation. The concept of the common good is rooted in an anthropology that not only stresses the unique value of each and every individual human being but also recognises that people are social beings and flourish best in social relationships extending out from the family to community, nation and globally. “It is because these relationships are perceived to be fragile and undervalued that an emphasis on the common good becomes part of the church’s ‘offer’ to the times in which we live: part of the vision of living well. It is also a reminder to Christians that their mission in the world is not just to enable the church to flourish but to promote the flourishing of all people.”

The pursuit of the common good, however, should not be detached from the worshipping and missionary life of the church “since the good cannot be fully realised apart from Christ, and Christ cannot be fully known outside the community of the faithful”. It can be the case that churches instead become pre-occupied with ‘domestic’ church concerns locally and nationally to the exclusion of this pursuit. Yet the distinctiveness of the Christian faith is in the idea of ‘incarnation’, the complete identification of God through Christ with humanity. Following Christ, therefore, also means living out this truth in relation to the people and communities around us.

The common good draws its real significance directly from the second great commandment ‘from which hang all the law and the prophets’: to love our neighbour as ourself. In the parable of the Good Samaritan we learn who is our neighbour, and in Matthew 25:34-45 we learn to see God in our neighbour: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”. Therefore pursuit of the common good through Christian Community Action is responding directly to both of the two great commandments which lie at the heart of the Christian faith.

[1] Malcolm Brown, “Church of England and the Common Good Today”, p.1. This section draws considerably on this paper.