The Pursuit of Happiness
Excerpt from 1 Peter 2:2-10
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”
Reflection by William C. Green
One of the myths of America is that we became a great nation thanks to individualism and a do-it-yourself spirit. Tell that to the Founders! They understood the Declaration’s “pursuit of happiness” to mean social happiness, social well-being—a collective, civic achievement. Strength and satisfaction were not just individual attributes developed alone.
Scripture, which was among the influences shaping our country, teaches much the same thing. Like the faith they inspire, these teachings are social before they are personal: they speak of personal happiness and well-being in relation to a broader community of which you and I became a part—the church. As part of the church we depend as much on others as ourselves as we receive and grow in the spirit of Jesus. Jesus himself couldn’t have been who he was, and who he is today, without a band of disciples, the model of the church.
Sometimes our faith is weak because we try too hard to make sense of it on our own. Sometimes our prayers falter because we pray alone, except for a unison prayer on Sunday. Sometimes the healing power of Jesus is remote and hard to believe because we don’t give it a chance: we don’t want to be touched.
What the Founders understood for our country, we can know in the church. Our happiness and, still more, our salvation depends on the quality of our relationships with others.
Keep me from pursuing what I need by myself, God. Draw me closer to others with whom your Spirit can reach me and help me as never before. Amen.
About the Author
William C. Green, a United Church of Christ minister, is the Director of Long Looking, a consultancy service specializing in fundraising and education for congregations. His new book, 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving, has just been published.
Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; [the Lord] upholds the orphan and the widow.”
– Psalm 146:7-9
“I trace the rainbow through the rain and see the promise is not in vain.”
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