Friday, May 6, 2011

Shalom as Freedom & Unity

The idea that God’s mission is to restore all of creation to wholeness (to Shalom) - has really captured me. Again, Shalom means wholeness, completeness, & soundness. It includes the ideas: “safe,” “free,” “whole,” “secure,” “prosperous,” and “just.” Shalom means the world restored to the way God intended for it to be. It has been amazing to me to find this concept in all of scripture both Old and New Testaments. Did you know that the Greek word for salvation also means “to be restored to wholeness”?

In his book Living Toward a Vision, Walter Brueggemann says that “Shalom is a tricky idea because it permits so many variant meanings to be assigned to it. But for all the possible variants, the word and notion of shalom has a radical nuance in our church context. It is an announcement that God has a vision of how the world shall be and is not yet.” I have begun to say that God has a dream for the world. I think that’s what it means when we pray these words from the model prayer; “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.”

“We are expected to go where we are not and we are expected to become who we are not.”

Brueggemann suggests that Shalom includes the ideas of freedom & unity.

Brueggemann states that God intends freedom and that Jesus came to free us. “The Gospel stories about Jesus portray him as the one who went around causing exoduses in people’s lives.” “Jesus leads people out of old, secure oppressions into new wildernesses of freedom.” “Let us characterize slavery simply as that which keeps us from being joyous. When we locate that, we shall be close to the source of our oppression. I have tried to reflect on the things that preclude joy. They include at least these: fear, a feeling of worthlessness, a lack of food, a lack of love, devotion to phony loyalties, and frantic, nonproductive obligations.” So to be restored to wholeness is to be set free from everything that keeps us in bondage and that keeps us oppressed. As followers of the way of Jesus it becomes our task to help others experience freedom also. (Galatians 5: 1 & 13)

“God wills unity.” “Jesus unites.” “God is against estrangement and fragmentation.” (Ephesians 2: 12-22, and 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20) The vision for unity is radical and feels abnormal. “We have lived with things abnormal so long that we have gotten used to them and we think they are normal.” “The world is not intended for alienation but for unity!” “The good news of unity is directed to the separated and the alienated. God aches at the disunity in the world. I want you to reflect on what kinds of things keep us at odds. Such factors include at least pride, greed, fear and misunderstanding.”

Jesus said that “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) I’ve just begun to more fully understand what it means to be a peacemaker. There is a big difference between being a peacekeeper (an appeaser) and a peacemaker. I’ve come to the realization that for much of my life I’ve been a peacekeeper but not a peacemaker. Here is a thought for you; sometimes in order to be a peacemaker you have to be a troublemaker. Ponder that one for a while.

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