I sat quietly in the chair next to my overflowing basket of yarn as my fingers practiced the familiar counting of rows. Crocheting has always had a calming effect on my restlessness, and I needed its soothing powers on this particular day. The repetitive movement of my hook seemed to counteract the rambunctious state of my heart.
My heart is often plagued by the dream of doing big things. I wanted to write life-altering books, preach soul-stirring messages to stadiums of people, and travel across the ocean to serve the poor. I wanted to be elbows-deep in a community that mirrored Acts 4:32—“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.” I loved the idea of being a radical peacemaker—someone who works diligently for justice and reconciliation in the world. I wanted to be part of a big movement with a big community.
But instead, God’s plan for me was planting a small church with a few friends in the middle of a metropolitan city. It was never part of my plan, but that’s exactly where I ended up.
The Toil of Peace Building
God has used our little church plant, perhaps more than anything else in my life, to teach me what it looks like to work out big passions in little places, showing me that he is God over the small just as much as he is God over the big. Jesus said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Even though it’s not as obvious or tangible as fighting sex trafficking overseas or building wells in Africa, I’m choosing to work for peace right where I am. But what does “working for peace” look like in daily life? For me, it’s been making that choice, every single day, to fight for peace. It means not running away from conflict. It means sitting still. It means showing up even when I don’t feel like it.
I’m not talking about the kind of peace that ends wars or affects global conflict (although that’s important). The kind of peace I’m referring to is forged in your everyday relationships. It’s pursuing reconciliation with the friend you offended. It’s babysitting for the single mom you know, so she can have some time to buy groceries or just be by herself. It’s giving a generous tip even when the service isn’t good. Peacemaking is that and so much more. It’s the daily, tedious work of living out our redemption story in everyday interactions.
Martin Luther once posed the question, “What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?” I’m starting to think that faithfulness is most clearly exhibited when we work for peace in the mundane days. This kind of work is small by nature. It’s one of those toiling activities that makes you feel like you’re inching along until you look back and realize you’ve climbed an entire mountain.
My dreams are still big, but I’m realizing that big things can happen in little places. Jesus is the one who taught me that.
How to Work for Peace in an Ordinary Life
While Jesus was polarizing and dynamic and outspoken, he led a life that ultimately championed peace. One of my favorite things about the incarnation is the relatability of Christ. He taught us how to serve, how to pray, and how to sacrifice for others, but Jesus also taught us how to work for peace right where we are and in the midst of the mundane.
In John 4, Jesus was traveling and stopped for a drink of water. Because Jews and Samaritans did not have a good relationship, a Samaritan woman arriving at the well was caught off guard when Jesus asked her for a drink. You can almost hear the caution and suspicion in her tone as she responded, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” This question ushered the two of them into a dialogue in which Jesus told her about the gospel—about himself. The Samaritan woman at the well is the first person recorded in Scripture to whom Jesus openly revealed his identity as Messiah!
This story has always astounded me. Most of Jesus’ ministry happened in front of large crowds with people watching his every move. He healed the blind and raised the dead. But here, on a side road by a well with no one else present, Jesus revealed who he really was to a Samaritan woman. In seemingly mundane circumstances, Jesus ministered to this woman in a big way. His interaction with her is a model for how we should work for peace in our current settings:
Peace grows out of ministry. I tend to compartmentalize my life, but it doesn’t seem like Jesus lived that way. He lived moment-to-moment, loving people along the way. Ministry doesn’t only happen on the mountaintops or in the valleys but also on the plateaus.
Peace is not bound by racial or gender barriers. Jesus loved everyone without exclusion. In fact, he seemed to be particularly fond of people who didn’t measure up in society. Jesus engaged unlikely individuals, and his example challenges us to love without exception. Peace knows no statuses, stigmas, or stereotypes.
Peace is unconcerned with being comfortable. I’m sure it made the Samaritan woman uncomfortable that a Jewish man was talking to her, but cultivating peace in our communities is rarely easy or painless. Through the example of his life and ministry, Jesus challenges us to get uncomfortable in our role as peacemakers.
Working for Peace is Unglamorous
Working for peace takes, well, work. It’s about being intentional and consistent—even when it’s unglamorous. When working for peace doesn’t feel very peaceful, our motivation has to come from something outside of ourselves—namely, Jesus. Here’s how to work for peace, even when it’s difficult:
Value people over projects. I’m a task-oriented person, which means it’s easy for me to get lost in the details and forget that relationships matter. Just as Jesus prioritized his relationships over his ministry, it’s important for us to acknowledge and affirm that people are more valuable than tasks. You place people over projects when you abandon the dirty dishes to make sure your spouse feels supported after a bad day at work, when you stop to look a cashier in the eye and call them by name instead of scurrying off to load the groceries in your car, or when teaching a child about grace takes precedence over morning chores.
Start at home. This plays into my big dreams. For so long, I focused on making peace in outside spaces and ended up neglecting my own home. We become better peacemakers in the outside world when we cultivate the work of peace at home base. For those with kids, you have been given prime discipleship real estate and an opportunity to plant seeds of peace in the hearts of your little ones.
Know peace before you make peace. We can’t work for peace in our communities if we haven’t experienced it for ourselves first. If you don’t know peace, take some time to sit with Jesus. Ephesians 2:14 tells us that Christ is our peace. It starts and ends with him. It is motivated and sustained by him. Find peace for yourself first by pursuing intimacy with Jesus.
The art of peacemaking feels a lot like crocheting to me. Many days, the intentional repetition of small, daily choices mirrors that of my crochet hook. God’s work in my life has been persistent and tedious, often repeating the same stitch over and over. He planted peace in me even when it was messy and unglamorous, which has been the majority of the time. As we move onward and upward into a more tangible role of peacemaker, I pray we will commit to the good work of practicing peace, over and over again, until we can look back and see all our hands have wrought.
Maggie Johnson is a writer, wife, and social justice junkie. She lives in Indianapolis with her bearded husband where she serves as the women’s ministry coordinator at her church. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.
Copyright © 2015 by Maggie Johnson and Christianity Today