Working Together for the Common Good

Is there a way to make a difference in these difficult days through the pursuit of the common good?

— Tom Sine —

Temple MountIsraeli David Shaul and his Palestinian neighbor Ziad Abed are committed to achieving the common good in a deeply conflicted country. They are neighbors, business partners and close friends.

Ziad is a Palestinian farmer. 20 years ago he was imprisoned by the Israelis for joining the intifada because his family’s land is confiscated without compensation to accommodate Jewish settlers. He has voiced a desire since then to find a way to work for the common good in a way that no longer requires aggressive anger.

David was raised as a secular Jew but after his family moved to Israel he became a devout Jew. He’s come to the conclusion that the Israeli occupation creates a wall of separation between the two peoples that live in this land.

Ziad and David got to know each other through bartering containers for olive oil. They discovered that they had a shared desire to work together to start an organic farm to sell vegetables in the local market, support families in need and attract volunteers and tourists to this small effort peacemaking.

They call their venture the Heavens Field Farm which places “emphasis on belonging to land not the ownership of it.” Their partners include a joint Israeli-Palestinian journal called Maktub, and other nonpolitical groups like Eratz Shalom. {Land Peace}

David and Ziad are presenting this as a “spiritual” endeavor, not as a business partnership. Can we all join in praying for the small ventures that seek to promote the shalom of God?

More than that, can’t we, and all of our countries, join Ziad and David in finding peaceful ways to work for the common good? Can’t we, and all of our countries, join even with those with whom we differ to work for the shalom of God?

Can’t we, in America, find ways to put away the politics of division and, like David and Ziad, have the courage to come together across great divides to work for the common good? Can’t we learn to also put aside our fear and anger to work for the shalom of God in ways that may not be understood by our friends and families?

Read again the prophet’s call in Isaiah 58 to seek first the shalom of God, not only for ourselves, but also for most vulnerable neighbors. Notice there is no room in this passage for the pursuit of self-interest. Doesn’t the prophet makes clear that our own healing and well-being comes from our pursuit of well-being for our neighbors?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Is there a way to make a difference in these difficult days through the pursuit of the common good?