The Common Good

When very young, our son Garth liked to say the word “good” in response to almost anything.

How are you doing, Garth? “Good.”
How’d school go today? “Good.”
How was band practice? “Good.”
How was soccer practice? “Good.”

I can still remember the inflection in Garth’s voice when he would say “good.” Garth was a good and sweet boy who never gave us any problems. And now he is a good man.

This past week I was thinking a lot about the idea of the “common good” that is required of all of us in order to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. So, I turned to Genesis chapter 1 (CEB) where the word “good” appears seven times.

  • On the first day, God said, “Let there be light,” and saw how good the light was.
  • On the second day, God created the waters and dry land.
  • On the third day, God created the earth and seas and saw that it was

God also created plant life and fruit trees and again proclaimed it good.

  • Stars, sun, and the moon were created on the fourth day, and God saw how good it was.
  • On the fifth day, God created birds and sea animals and saw how good it was.
  • On the sixth day, God created every kind of wildlife and saw how good it was. Finally, God created humanity in God’s own image. When God saw everything that God had made, God called it “supremely good.”

At the same time, I noticed that there is a place where the words “not good” are used. In Genesis 2:15, we read, “The LORD God took the human and settled him in the Garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. God said, “It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.” It was not good that it was not good, so God put Adam to sleep and took a rib from him, fashioning a woman.

Jesus made it clear in John 10:10b (CEB) that his mission from God was to proclaim and advocate for abundant life for each person on this earth. “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.”

You and I were created and called good so that we could embody the common good by our words and actions. Brittanica.com defines “common good” in this way: “In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service.”

Our corporate responsibility to ensure the common good for all is clearly expressed in the Preamble to our US Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ and world citizens, we are called for such a time as this to set aside personal desires in order to serve the common good. This is especially relevant as we approach Thanksgiving Day on November 26. Families all over the country are agonizing about whether to travel to visit friends or relatives. At a time when COVID-19 cases continue to escalate dramatically in Iowa and in virtually every other state in the U.S., what is the common good?

We are hearing over and over that we must take every precaution when gathering with others over the holiday weekend. One of the public voices that we have come to trust the most is that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci has gained the deep respect of Americans because he tells us the truth and challenges us to consider the common good.

In an article in the Independent on October 16, Dr. Fauci was already warning Americans about Thanksgiving gatherings. “Calling it an ‘unfortunate fact’ that Thanksgiving gatherings could kick the spread of the virus into an even higher gear, Fauci expressed his regret that Americans might have to choose between coming together as a family and their own and others’ safety. ‘That is, unfortunately, a risk,’ he told CBS News, ‘when you have people coming from out of town, gathering together in an indoor setting, you don’t know what the status of it is – it is unfortunate because that’s such a sacred part of American tradition, the family gathering around Thanksgiving, but that is a risk.’”

In Iowa, we had 52,917 new COVID cases between October 31 and November 13. And last Friday we reached 10.8 million total cases in the US with 244,250 total deaths. On a day when our country had a record of 181,196 new cases, 1,389 deaths, and 65,516 hospitalized and knowing that we all want to be a part of the solution, not the problem, Dr. Fauci emphasized that Thanksgiving could be a serious transmission risk. He asked us to double down on these suggestions.

  • Keep your mask on, if at all possible, even if it is a very small group.
  • If families have been quarantined or tested, it is not quite as necessary.
  • Stay socially distanced and frequently wash hands.
  • Limit the number of people handling food.
  • Avoid prolonged indoor gatherings with people not living with you.
  • Take special care because there is widespread community spread right now. People do not know that they are infected.

“If you do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down,” Fauci said. “You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around.

It is not futile.”

My friends, this is a time when we must think seriously and soberly about the common good. I implore you to do all that you can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Too many people have died, and too many people are still becoming infected. Genesis reminds us that God not only creates each person in God’s own image but calls everything that God has made “supremely good.”

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, even in the midst of hardship, just as the pilgrims did. Now it is our time. Be wise. Be diligent. Be safe. Be grateful, and work for the common good. We can do this together!

18 thoughts on “The Common Good

  1. Any way I can get a hold of a mask like you showed?? And where did you find the socks?? Love them both!! Thanks SO much for your words of inspiration an hope – they are truly appreciated!

  2. Thank you for your great food for thought – and not just thought, but action as well. Pray let us all play safe and not just only think of our individual selves.

  3. That is a word of comfort in this time of the Epidemic. Bishop, I thank you for that. We are with you in the whole process of preventing the transmission of COVID 19 in our church members as well as the whole community.
    The Lord bless you,
    Pastor Daniel Niyonzima at St. Paul’s in Cedar Rapids.

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