In the aftermath of horrible death and violence in Dallas as well as across our nation, Christians are gathering to talk about how we can be God’s agents of reconciliation in our cities, both among races and between the police and the citizenry. I propose that something is already in place that can help. One basic principle of Christian community development can do much to bring about the reconciliation our neighbors, our city and our country seeks: working for the common good.
Working for the common good brings together all kinds of people from all over a city to work on a common issue of concern. The purpose of the group is not restricted by anyone’s race, economic status, or theology. Rather, the mission of the group is working together to address a troubling issue like hunger, education, lack of affordable housing, human trafficking, or racial discrimination. Sweating side-by-side as you build a Habitat for Humanity house, sharing our stories while sorting clothes or delivering food—all of these activities, performed shoulder-to-shoulder with people of different religions and races, can build relationships, understanding, and help us all learn to love our neighbors better.
The Bible speaks to working for the common good. Jeremiah shared God’s instructions to the Jewish exiles in Babylon: “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). When a religious leader asked him what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded with two: love God and love your neighbor. The Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
As a Christian who has participated in several of these “common good” groups, I have had amazing opportunities to share my faith as I’ve become friends with people who are quite different from me. God provided the most important, eternal means of reconciliation of fallen humanity to Him through Jesus Christ. One way we can model this kind of reconciliation is by working together with all different kinds of people on issues that grieve the heart of God.