Monday, November 23, 2015

The Practice of Shalom

Because of God’s tremendous compassion for everyone, I beg you, my dear family, to put your congregations on the altar, as a still living but holy sacrifice to God.  This is what is acceptable to God, your sincere act of loving devotion among your congregation.  Don’t be formed by the thinking of this era—that of stereotypes and judgment— but be re-created, having your minds rebooted to the will of God, and so proving by your actions what the good and pleasing and complete will of God is.  I was given a message from the Lord to share with all of you: Don’t consider yourself to be better than others in everything.  Be sensible, and admit that each one of you has granted each one of you a measure of faith, even if that faith looks differently….Our congregations are to be characterized by sincere love for one another.  We are all to be rid of the evil in our congregations, but to grasp onto the good.  We are to have affectionate love for each other.  We are to be diligent without procrastination.  We are to be enthusiastic in character.  We serve the Lord.  We rejoice in hope.  We endure in suffering.  We persist in prayer.  We are to give to the needs of the saints.  We are to practice hospitality.  As the representatives of Jesus, you know already that we are to bless those who persecute us—we speak well of them and do not verbally destroy them.  As Jesus, we rejoice with the joyful and mourn with the weeping.  Well, this is how we should behave to other groups of Christians, as well as those outside the faith.  We aren’t to be arrogant over other Christians, but we are to associate with the lowly and the weak among us.  Don’t be self-important.  Just because you’ve got the money, don’t think that you can tell the others what to do.  Just because you’ve got the word of God, that doesn’t mean that you can order others around.  Just because you’ve proven your faith, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to listen to your opinions.  Nor does it give anyone the right to attack others, no matter what they’ve done to you.  If someone does something evil to you, don’t act immorally back to them.  Instead, spend time thinking ahead of time about how you can do good to everyone.  With all of your ability, live in peace and community with ALL people—even fellow Christians who disagree with you. 

We Got to Start Somewhere, But There’s Just So Far To Go
What can we do?  We live in a world rejecting shalom, pursuing materialism, sexual gratification and false philosophies and calling it happiness.  In the midst of their self- authentication, self-actualization and self-gratification, the people of the world has destroyed well-being for others around them.  The world ignores the needs of those around them, they avoid thinking of the harm they have caused others and they do all they can to shore up their hope that someday, somehow, their lives will be okay.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the church was really any different.  Instead, we live in a church that has bought what the world had to say about truth and joy for 1800 years.  The church flies on a pendulum which swings from a drive to punish all those irresponsible and filled with self-interest to being wholly accepting and supporting people even in their drive to destroy themselves and others.
The answer to this is the shalom of Jesus.  Jesus calls us to communities of shalom—a disciplined grace which leads to peace on earth.  But how can we—when all the governments and churches and non-profits in the world have failed—succeed in creating peace where only chaos and hatred has reigned?

Creating Shalom
  1. Understand our baptism
First, we must understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  To be baptized is to die, to have our old life, with its philosophies and materialism cast aside, no longer living in it.  And we must live the principles of Jesus.  Jesus is faithful, and we can live in that faithfulness.  We must realize that being a follower of Jesus isn’t a matter of belief, but of lifestyle.  So we must pursue Jesus—the real Jesus as presented in the gospels—surrender our lives and live for Him.

  1. Live the principles of shalom
Then, as Jesus teaches us, we understand more and more the principles of peace that he taught us.  We will learn his principles of purity, of faithfulness, of devotion to God and love of others.  In all this, we will become more like the people who can create shalom in the world because we will embody shalom.

  1. Accept the Anawim
As we learn Jesus’ way, we find that so many of the world’s categories no longer apply.  Those which the world rejects—even for good reason!—we will welcome and offer God’s love and peace.  Those who are blamed because of their poverty we will receive and share with.  Those who are hated we will love and offer hope and community through Jesus.

  1. Join a community of shalom
It is not enough for us to enact shalom as individuals, we must be in a community of shalom.  This means participating in a group of baptized faithful in Jesus who are allowing God to transform them into shalom-makers.  This must be a community welcoming to the outcast and a community ready to participate in koinonia

  1. Speak prophetically
As we live out Jesus’ life and community of shalom, then we must share with others the principles of shalom as we live them out.  We cannot speak them if we do not live them, but we must share what Jesus has taught us and we do live out.  We do not speak this in order to judge others, but in reality to warn them of Jesus’ judgment against those who oppose shalom.

  1. Live in trust and patience
It is easy to get discouraged.  We can look at the world and see what a big task it is to transform it.  We can look at the church and see how faithless and fear-peddling it is.  We can look at our failures to live out shalom, and throw up our hands in despair.  But this is where the faith of Abraham (and of Jesus) comes in.  Abraham, despite his own failures and weaknesses, despite the impossibilities of the promise God gave him, Abraham trusted that God could and would do it.  He never forsook God, but continued in patience, even as he suffered for those who suffered due to their rejection of shalom.  Even so, when it looks like all has failed and God is no where to be found, we need to be patient, and give room for God to work in His own time.

  1. Pray for God’s shalom

Finally, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for the shalom to happen on earth.  Ultimately, if peace and justice are to rule the earth, if shalom is to break into anyone’s life, it must be done by God’s work.  If that is the case, then our main task is that of asking God to cause shalom to come.  Pray for others, that they may experience God’s full shalom.  Pray for the church, that they may understand and live out God’s full shalom.  And pray for the world that it might be transformed into God’s kingdom.

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