“Blessed are the shalom makers for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:8
In my research for my book on the Sermon on the Mount, I became fascinated with the rich implications of the word “shalom,” which appears over 500 times in the Old Testament. I’m convinced that the New Testament writers had shalom on their minds when they wrote about “peace.” Our word “peace” is inadequate to describe the richness of the Hebrew term. Shalom is peace on steroids.
The 1st thing that usually comes to mind when say “peace” is something along the lines of euphoric feelings or a pause between arguing parties or wars. I believe if you asked God for one word to describe his vision for the world he’d say: “Shalom!” Understanding shalom is key to understanding God’s agenda; what we should be doing and how we should be doing it while on the earth as his Kingdom ambassadors.
I admit it, I’m obsessed with “shalom.” I like the word, I like how it sounds, and I like what it means. Mostly I love when it is and hate it when it isn’t!
Before we were put here, the Father, Son, and Spirit had perfect eternal harmony when they decided to share it with us for us to steward. He bequeathed on us the job of shalom makers. We had it for a short time in the garden, but gave it away. Ever since, we’re trying to recover it and share it with those around us.
Shalom affects everything spiritual, relational, social, political, economic, environmental, and cultural. When shalom is, everything is as it ought to be for the good of all! Let’s not forget the “good of all” part.
After his resurrection Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” We shouldn’t imagine that he meant: “Ya’ll feel better now. I’m back!” Instead, he was commissioning them: “As you go into the world, bring shalom with you! Spread it around so everyone can taste and see how good it is!” This is shalom to go!
In the Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England hangs the 2nd largest one-piece tapestry in the world, called the “Christ in Glory” tapestry. It’s 75 feet tall by 38 feet wide and weighs over a ton! You don’t just throw something like that together. It took the artist 11 years to draw it and a team of 12 people 2 years to weave it! It is a gorgeous depiction of Christ surrounded by the four living creatures mentioned in the book of Revelation.
Tim Keller teaches that society that embraces shalom is like a tapestry of thousands of interrelated threads as opposed to a pile of random strands thrown together on the floor. One is a tapestry of interconnected people working toward the common good and the other a tangled mess.
Shalom is a compilation of thousands of threads related to one another in a million ways. Each has to go over, under, around, and through the others at a multitude of points. When it doesn’t, the fabric tears and its beauty diminishes. When we’re interwoven among one another, you have shalom or “community” if you prefer. Martin Luther King used to say that we all share in the “network of mutuality” and the “garment of destiny.”
When it frays who would you suspect are the first to fall through the tears? The weaker members, those with no agency or social capital, those on margins.
In such case, shalom makers insert themselves into the tears and reweave the frayed areas. They see where the garment is torn, where the network is broken down, and they join with other shalomers to repair it to its strength and beauty!
A “rising tide lift all boats” because they’re all in the same water. What affects one, affects the rest of us. Shalom makers know this and are willing to disadvantage themselves for the advantage of the disadvantaged.
Shalom benefits the good of all or it’s not shalom at all. When you find an enormous discrepancy between the opportunities for the rich and the poor or the white and the black or men and women, shalom is AWOL and needs to be relocated.
Loving peace and making peace are not necessarily the same thing. You can love peace and be content to enjoy it for yourself, while at the same time neglecting the responsibility to advance it in the world. Some people treat their peace like it’s all that matters. But shalom is meant to be shared.
The prophet Jeremiah had a lot to say about sharing shalom in his letter to his countrymen exiled in Babylon. “Seek the shalom of the city where I have caused you to be carried away for in the shalom thereof shall ye have shalom.” (Jeremiah 29:7 – Orthodox Jewish Bible) If they shalomed Babylon they too would be shalomed!
As foreigners and exiles (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11) our assignment is to share shalom with our Babylon, i.e., America. America and every other country in the world is the progeny of Babylon. We may well be the best Babylon, but Babylon we are!
Let’s be clear, perfect shalom will only be fully realized at the return of the Prince of Shalom (Isaiah 9:6), but on any given day you can witness shalom makers praying and working for its slow but steady advance on foreign soil.
God wants to be the shalom we want to see, to make us better in Babylon while making Babylon better through us!
A lot of Christians just want to get the hell out of Babylon (through rapture or moving to Idaho). But as ambassadors to Babylon, we’re on a shalom-making mission to remove as much hell out of Babylon as we can and replace it with Kingdom of Heaven!
Don’t horde it… Take your shalom to go!