Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. But it is deeper and richer than what I understood peace to be for a long time. I think I learned that peace was about me feeling better about a bad situation or me getting out of conflict with another person. Both ideas seem rooted in my needs and discomfort.
What I’ve learned is that keeping the peace in my soul and in my life is not really Shalom. At most, it’s a shallow, low-impact kind of peace that does not do the Hebrew word justice.
Shalom is about all created life flourishing in the fullest expression of God’s love for us. It is helping everyone and everything live into the purpose and identity given by God the Creator.
…all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 (MSG)
For me, it’s this simple; Shalom falls short when it’s all about me. And because my default is usually me-focused, these words written by Paul to a church in an ancient Turkish village are my reminder to look out and look up when I start yearning for peace inside. These are the questions I am learning to ask myself:
How am I learning to orient my life toward true Shalom?
- Do I daily recognize the places I have more power for no other reason than my ethnicity or socio-economic situation and figure out if I can share it or give it away?
- Do I resist living a busy, high octane existence and fill my days with missional living?—By the way, both can be exhausting, but only one makes a difference in God’s economy.
- Do I remember that peace isn’t just the absence of conflict or differences, or even war, but the intentional movement toward reconciling and restoring people to God and to each other? Am I working to bring a reconciling, restorative, active peace to my community?
- Sometimes living and giving Shalom means speaking up. Am I speaking up honestly and in solidarity with the orphan, refugee, prisoner, oppressed and spiritual skeptic in my community to make a tangible difference for them?
My imperfect practice of living Shalom has included:
- Building friendships across race and culture.
- Learning from people who are tearing down walls that divide us and join in their work.
- Listening to the stories of the oppressed and responding with life-giving actions.
- Sharing more resources than I think I can – sacrifice takes my focus off me.
This is a journey that for me continues to be beautiful, gut-wrenching, cathartic, priority-shifting, wonderful and full of laying down my own wants. If I could encourage others, I would say that we must stop taking the love and peace of God for granted in a way that only allows the best for one. God’s Shalom wants the best for all, and we must figure out a way to live that more fully and honestly, so that all people and creation around us can flourish.