Common Good Spirituality by Christopher Mack

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-12

Common Good Spirituality

I entered into the Christian faith at age thirteen. My parents joked that becoming a devout Christian was my form of “teenage rebellion.” They attended church sparingly. I jumped into my new faith with all the zeal and enthusiasm you might expect from an adolescent. My closet filled up with Christian t-shirts, I carried my Bible to school, I evangelized my friends again and again, I insisted on pouring over the scriptures before beginning anything else in my day, and I attended every retreat, mission trip, conference, concert, or lock-in my church youth group offered. Looking back, I can see how my fragile sense of self was looking to redefine and express itself through this new found faith. I was a young man in the 90’s wrestling with “Who am I?” and had answered passionately in the vernacular of the day, “I am a Jesus Freak!” 

In those days, I had a lot invested in asserting my countercultural identity as an ardent follower of Jesus. Some were defining themselves as star athletes, spectacular artists, or superb students. I wouldn’t have articulated it this way, but I really wanted to be known as the SuperChristian. I had more verses memorized, more apologetic answers at-the-ready for tough questions, and would engage in informal public debates with the most strident atheists before 1st period began. I usually only felt threatened by my more charismatic friends from the Pentecostal or Assemblies of God churches. Some of them spoke in tongues, others talked about healings they had witnessed in their church, and still others talked about personal messages they had audibly heard God share with them. My Baptist faith seemingly couldn’t compete. 

At age thirty-six, I’m double the age I was when I graduated from high school. Much has changed about the way I view the Christian faith, my spiritual journey, and my own identity. My faith has been deconstructed through pain in humbling ways and has emerged much less centered around what I can prove or perform for others. I’ve had mystical experience of God that has awed me to silence and moved me to tears. Yet this inward journey of Jesus the Christ bringing wholeness to all my sin-scarred self has led to an increased focus on the common good. 

In 1 Corinthians, Paul spoke to a church experiencing its own spiritual identity crisis. Manifestations of the Spirit were becoming divisive. The faith that bore Jesus’ Name was being wielded for personal ego-projects and to invoke God’s curse upon people created in the image of God. Paul makes it abundantly clear that we can’t invoke the Jesus Way as a means to try and curse our opponents or enemies. Jesus had in fact taught to pray for our enemies and to bless those who cursed us. We can’t claim “Jesus is Lord” zealously and then go about advancing our own agenda in self-indulgent vanity projects, superiority contests, or the unneighboring acts of violence, neglect, or division.

From the Triune God flow diverse gifts for a unitive purpose. Spiritual manifestations are not invitations to Christian Superiority Contests. These unique manifestations are to serve God’s global work of redemption, justice-brining, and reconciliation. The focus of the common good produces an uncommon spirituality. Rather than mimicking the “pagan” world by turning our spirituality into something self-serving, we follow Jesus in acts of self-sacrifice, embracing the marginalized, and participating in God’s Global Family for the restoration of the common good. 

Christopher Mack