Shalom Activist

Noel Moules, Member of the Anabaptist Network Steering Group, Convenor of the Anabaptist Network of Organisations and founder and director of the Workshop: Applied Christian Studies learning programme writes on the subject of Shalom:

Shalom Activist

- assertive peace, transfiguring wholeness -

The Hebrew word shalom - from a Jesus perspective – is the totality of the Christian message and mission distilled into a single word: it is gospel in its completeness and quite simply the secret of the universe. ‘Shalom’ and the ‘Kingdom of God’ are identical concepts:

‘Of his all-embracing kingdom and of his shalom there shall be no end’ (Isa 9:6-7; cf. Lk 10:5,9; Eph 2:17)

Shalom is usually translated as ‘peace’, but is best understood by the words, ‘whole’, ‘complete’ ‘intact’, ‘holistic’ and ‘integrated’; the idea of everything fitting perfectly together as a dynamic whole, developing and interacting in creative harmony. The noun shalom is formed from the verb, shalem, meaning ‘to make something complete’, ‘to finish’, ‘to make an end of’; like an artist finishing their masterpiece.

Because shalom is formed from a verb it is packed with powerful energy, there is absolutely nothing ‘passive’ about it. To encounter shalom is traumatic and cataclysmic, best described as ‘shalom-shock’. Jesus’ comes ‘proclaiming peace’ (Eph 2: 17), confronting people with shalom in a way that disturbs and challenges. Shalom exudes energized wholeness, dynamic tranquility and explosive calm.

The Jewish rabbis declare,‘Gadol hasholom’ (‘shalom is the highest of all values’). An ancient rabbinical legend tells how God created every single blessing that was ever going to be created. Lying in a huge pile, God needed a container - a bag, box or jar, in which to put them - but could find nothing, so God created shalom. So to proclaim the single word, “Shalom!” is to proclaim the totality of everything that is true about God. Shalom is sourced and shaped in God, and Jesus is the incarnation of shalom:

‘Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ; for he is our peace’ (Eph 2: 14)

SHALOM HAS ONE HOLISTIC VISION

Shalom proclaims the hope for the whole of creation; that wholeness and harmony that will embrace the cosmos as a physically and spiritually renewed heaven and earth (cf Isa 65:17-18). That is why shalom ‘surpasses understanding’ (Phil 4:7)! Shalom is salvation in the most complete sense. No one is going to heaven! Instead God’s salvation involves the total integration of absolutely everything; earth embraced by heaven, quite literally, the two becoming one. Everyone living as a resurrection body within a transfigured cosmos, as a new creation within the new creation – not somewhere else but here on earth!

‘The creation itself will be set free from its bondage and decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (Rom 8:21)

Jesus does not just die for people, but for the whole creation! The Greek phrase ‘all things’ means ‘absolutely everything without exception and forever’:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself” (Jn 12:32)
‘... through (Jesus) to reconcile to himself all things ... making peace (shalom) by the blood of his cross’ (Col 1:20)

SHALOM HAS THREE ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENTS

Applying the three biblical requirements of shalom to life helps us calculate the extent to which shalom is actually present. Shalom is only truly present to the extent that all-three dimensions are present:

1. Shalom as well-being (eg. Isa 66:12)
- All material needs must be met (human and wild nature); everything that makes for life and dignity

2. Shalom as justice (eg. Ex 18:23)
- All relationships must be right and just; the word for ‘justice’ is mishpat - ‘to put everything right’

3. Shalom as integrity (eg. Ps 34:15)
- All people must have integrity in character; upright, displaying godliness in thought and action

SHALOM HAS FOUR ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS

Shalom is first and foremost about relationships; not only with God and human society, but also the whole of wild nature - everything as it ought to be - in complete unity and fullness:

1. Shalom with God:
- ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rm 5:1; cf. 1Th 5:23; Phil 4:9)

2. Shalom with yourself:
- ‘Those of steadfast mind you keep in shalom, in shalom because they trust in you’ (Isa 26:3; cf. Jn 14:27; Matt 11:29)
3. Shalom with humanity:
- ‘If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone’ (Rm 12:18; cf. Mk 9:50; Rm 14:19)

4. Shalom with creation:
- ‘ … and you shall not fear the wild animals of the earth. For you shall be in covenant with the stones of the wilderness, and the wild animals shall be in shalom with you’ (Job 5:22-23; cf. Mk 1:12-13; Hos 2:18)

SHALOM HAS SIX ACTIVE RESPONSES

Shalom requires inner formation, but always demands practical action! Every Christian is called to be a ‘Shalom Activist’. These six biblical calls for a shalom response set our agenda for activism and mission:

1. Seek shalom:
- ‘Depart from evil and do good; seek shalom and pursue it ' (Ps 34:14; cf. Heb 12:14)
- ‘Seek the shalom of the city … for in its shalom you will find your shalom’ (Jer 29:7; cf. Rm 14:19)

2. Proclaim shalom:
- ‘Wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace’ (Eph 6:15)
- ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news, who heralds shalom, proclaims joyful tidings, announces salvation’ (Isa 52:7; cf. Lk10:5-6; Eph 2:17)

3. Make shalom:
- ‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace’ (Ja 3:17-18)
- ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ (Mt 5:9; cf. Isa 2:4; Eph 2:14-15)

4. Live shalom:
- ‘Take note of the blameless person, and watch the one who is upright, for the person of shalom has a future’ (Ps 37:37; cf. Lk 10:5-6)
- ‘If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone’ (Rm 12:18; Prov 11:30; Gal 5:22)

5. Pray shalom:
- ‘I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity (1Tim 2:1-3)
- ‘Seek the shalom of the city… and pray to the Lord on its behalf’ (Jer 29:7 cf. Ps 122:6-9)

6. Expect shalom:
- ‘What we do know is this; when Jesus is revealed, we will be like him … all who have this hope purify themselves, just as he is pure’ (1Jn 32-3)
- A great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language … cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne” (Rev 7:10)
- ‘The I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13)

SHALOM INSPIRES ‘ANGELS OF JUDGEMENT’

We have seen that ‘justice’ (mishpat) is central to shalom. Judgement (also mishpat) is nothing more than justice in action - ‘putting everything right’ - judgement is one of the most exciting biblical ideas:

‘The Hebrew word mishpat is the primary biblical word for both ‘judgement’ and ‘justice’. Both words have the central meaning of ‘putting everything right’, of ‘straightening out those things that have become twisted and corrupted’. Originally mishpat referred to the restoration of a situation or environment, which promoted equity and harmony, that is - shalom - in a community’ (Anchor Bible Dictionary)

‘Justice’ is the concept of ‘putting everything right
‘Judgement’ is the process of ‘putting everything right’

So judgement is a ‘process’ not a ‘statement’. It is ‘relational’ rather than ‘legal’; it overcomes evil with good, winning the hearts of evildoers and always establishing shalom.

“Judgement is now no longer a crushing word on a failed life but the first word of a new creation” (Walter Wink)

Every ‘Shalom Activist’ is an ‘Angel of Judgement’. Remember an angel (Gk: angelos) is a messenger; biblically an angel is a symbol of the power and authority of the one who gave them the message or action to deliver. So embrace the assertive and subversive peace that is shalom and work to bring its transfiguring wholeness into the lives of the people and social structures that surround you.