By: Kate Kardol
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Every Jesus follower is familiar with this second greatest commandment. But in our increasingly globalized world, what does it actually look like to live out this commandment?
What I’ve learned from my grocery store’s fruit aisle
I pondered this commandment last week while wandering through our local grocery store. Consulting my shopping list, I reflected on the many hands that labored over each product, realizing that the aisles in big box grocers are similar to a UN general assembly meeting. The banana I purchase might need a translator just to talk with my pineapple.
So I was challenged in that simple moment, as someone whose mind instinctively “goes global,” to consider my activism within my own community. How well do I know and address the needs that exist right in my own neighborhood, maybe even those of the store clerk who tallies my groceries? I couldn’t help but wonder if we, as social activists, are approaching the issues of poverty and injustice in the same way. In our desire to change lives around the world, are we quick to stand up against poverty and injustice continents away while ignoring the poverty and injustice in our backyards?
The ushering in of “shalom”
Former Director of World Vision’s Urban Advance, Robert Linthicum, speaks about this idea of being local activists. Linthicum suggests in his compelling book, Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community, that our sole purpose as Christian activists is to usher in “shalom” wherever God has placed us.
So what is “shalom?” Linthicum defines it as a way of life and the ushering in of God’s Kingdom. It is community in its richest form, characterized by wholeness and harmony. It means a world free from poverty and oppression.
How can we be a “shalom” activists?
Linthicum urges us to bring “shalom” into our communities by being present and praying over our communities fervently, practicing our faith outright, and continuously proclaiming God’s message of “shalom” over all. But “shalom” cannot be established from the comfort of our homes, churches, and workplaces alone. We must also enter into the dark spaces of our communities to be “ambassadors of shalom,” as Linthicum says.
Sometimes I find it easier to advocate for those halfway across the world than to allow my life to be intertwined with the present needs of my community. It might mean getting dirty, feeling uncomfortable, or having my schedule interrupted. But Jesus got dirty. He wined and dined with “the least of these,” and he served whoever crossed His path in efforts to reach the whole world with His message.
See, I care about the orphans and widows in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. I care about global warming and seeking peace over war. I care about human rights and justice for the poor and oppressed. But do I first care about those in my own city who face the same injustice and oppression? I’ve discovered I need to make greater effort to find this balance, not letting my passion be at the expense of those who are crying out for God next door.
In our global activism efforts, let us be willing to also be local activists, bringing in “shalom” right where we are.
Kate Kardol is an independent writer currently living in Lausanne, Switzerland.