All peacemaking is local
“Trust the LORD and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness.” Psalms 37:3 (CEB)
One of the newer translations of the Bible is the Common English Bible (CEB). According to the Common English Bible website, www.commonenglishbible.com, “The Common English Bible translation is academically rigorous and denominationally neutral because 120 translators from 24 denominations built it on common ground.” One of the goals of doing the translation was to provide a single Bible translation which combined accuracy and accessibility.
The verse given above from the CEB comes the closest to the translation of Psalm 37:3 with which I am most familiar, that which appears in the New American Standard Bible:
Trust in the LORD and do good ; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
The last portion of this verse forms an important part of my philosophy of Christian service. The idea of living in the land and cultivating faithfulness or “farm[ing] faithfulness,” as in the CEB, speaks of rootedness, of commitment to the local community, and of being content to grow and serve according to the calling and circumstances in which God has placed us.
The idea is that God has given each of us specific spiritual gifts, talents, and opportunities and that these, to a large extent, should guide our service. The apostle Paul reminds us,
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 Jesus tells us that the landowner distributed talents to three servants in differing amounts.
To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.
Not everyone was given the same. And not each of us will be given the same gifts, abilities, and opportunities. But each of us will be given some gifts, talents and abilities. Like the servant who received five talents and the one who received two talents, we need to “[go] at once and put [our] [talents] to work.” (Matthew 25:16, NIV)
We do not need to be discontent because we are not “great peacemakers.” Some will be called to great things – perhaps in Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East or elsewhere; perhaps working in areas of poverty or violence. But some of us will simply be called to be a peacemaking mom or dad or employee or employer. We can foster peace in our families, neighborhoods, and churches – dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness.
The idea that “all peacemaking is local” is a takeoff of the quote from former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tip O’Neil, who asserted that “all politics is local.” According to O’Neil, politicians must appeal to the simple, mundane and everyday concerns of those who elect them into office. ( ). In the same way, each of us needs to be aware of the “simple, mundane, and everyday concerns” of those around us – our spouses, children, friends and neighbors, and others in our communities.
Along these lines it is interesting to note that local organizations of all kinds are working to being peace – through feeding the hungry, supporting local farmers, helping to prepare taxes, tutoring, and meeting other every day needs.
Here are some examples:
• Operation Roundup: Electric cooperatives in various parts of the country allow customers to “round up” their electric bill to the next whole dollar, combine all of these “round ups” and distribute them to various local groups with needs. For example, The Energy Coop, a small rural energy cooperative in central Ohio, distributed over $215,000 in 2012 to local schools, park districts, food banks, drug and alcohol rehab programs, and many other recipients. Check with your local utility company to see if they have a “round up” program.
• Plant-A-Row: Various organizations are encouraging home and community gardeners to plant an extra row in their garden this summer and to donate the produce to a local food bank. Some, like American Family Insurance, will also donate $1 to for every pledge to plant an extra row (up to $5000) to Feeding America. You can find general information at ( http://www.foodgatherers.org/ – select “Ways to Give/Plant a row for the Hungry).
• Create the Good: AARP, the organization for those 50 and over, is encouraging seniors to volunteer to serve in their local communities in a variety of ways including tutoring elementary school children, helping prepare tax returns, and other opportunities. The network claims 2000+ volunteer opportunities and over 400,000 registered volunteers ( http://www.createthegood.org/about )
Finally, all of this is not to say that we should be unaware of or unconcerned about needs and problems outside our local communities and around the world, or even outside our own family circle. But, it is important that we serve faithfully “close to home;” that we “live in the land, and faithfulness” according to the gifts and opportunities God has given us.