Monday, November 30, 2015

The Progress of Shalom

Without exception, everyone has done wrong before God and become offensive to Him.  But we all have been given the opportunity to be right before God through the deliverance from the slavery to sin and death which can be found in the Messiah Jesus.  When the Father raised Jesus from an official execution, he showed him to be the path to be forgiven of our sins and to have a relationship with God.  God proved his justice—which was called into question by him overlooking sins in the past and because of his patience—by making acceptable the one who enters into the devotion of Jesus, and so He proved his actions just….Jesus was given to the authorities to be punished because of our wrongs before God and Jesus was raised from his execution so that we could be made acceptable before God.  Therefore, since we have been made acceptable by committed devotion, we have the shalom of God through our King, Messiah Jesus.  It is because of Him that we have the right to speak to God and receive the blessings of God, on which we depend on for our very well-being.  We boast in our confidence in being a part of God’s glory.  You see, we can boast in the sufferings we receive—even as Jesus did—because we know that our suffering gives us the opportunity to stick with God.  And sticking with God in the midst of suffering—even as Jesus did— is the test of our true devotion to God.  And if our devotion is tested, then we have confidence—because if Jesus was raised by His enduring devotion, so will we.  And this confidence will never be dashed because God’s love fills us through the Holy Spirit, given by God, to help us endure in the midst of our struggles. (Romans 3:23-26; 4:25-5:5)

Got World Peace?
Peace, according to the Bible is not just an absence of violence or a peaceful, easy feeling, but it is well-being in a community.  When the Bible promises “peace on earth to those obtaining grace”, it is not speaking of a lack of war, but of a ruling principle and nation who would provide for all in need and offer justice and peace to everyone, without exclusion.  This well-being and justice is called “shalom” in the Bible.

Stuck With Whirled Peas?
If there is one thing the world lacks, it is peace, meaning shalom.  If shalom is a world-wide community in which everyone experiences well-being, acceptance, mutual assistance, and equal justice for all, then we have never experienced it.  In every nation, in every era, the poor have been oppressed. The outcast have been thrown out because of arbitrary cultural mores.  The religious have judged and rejected all people who did not accept their narrow guidelines.  The non-religious have judged and rejected the religious because of their devotion to God.  And all people purpose to harm all people who stand in the way of their culture controlling and manipulating all others. 

Life on earth is not shalom.  It is anti-peace.

Everyone wants peace.  Most of us in the world recognize that we are all in trouble, that we don’t have peace, and all of us want to obtain it.  Or create it.  Or force it on others.  To create shalom where there is no shalom is what the Bible calls “salvation.”  Frankly, it is a utopian ideal, just like democracy is, just like capitalism is, just like communism.  The difference is that the Bible claims that salvation—the creation of shalom in the world—is something that only God can do.  Peace and justice cannot come simply from human effort or from anarchy.  It must be a work of God that humans join with.  But it is initiated by God.

Getting Better All The Time
The first step of God’s shalom-making was creation.  God saw the chaos, the pointlessness of the world and made it again.  And, according to Scripture, after God’s peace-making, He established humanity to rule over His creation and to keep it in shalom.  This plan failed when humanity chose rebellion and chaos instead of God’s shalom.

Another step in God’s shalom-making was choosing Abraham.  Abraham was not a perfect man, but he was a person who sought God alone, being faithful to Him, and trusting in Him when all else seemed chaotic.  God chose Abraham because of his trust in God and said that whoever would obtain shalom, in all the world, they must be like Abraham and choose his path of trust.  This plan failed because people thought that following the ritual of Abraham or being born into the family of Abraham obtained this shalom.

Another step in God’s shalom-making was to create a community of shalom with very specific rules.  He chose for His people a nation in slavery—the outcast—so they would know how to treat those who were outcast.  And He taught them His ways of love and shalom for all his people.  This experiment failed in different ways, over the years.  First, the people didn’t believe that God could really give them shalom.  Then, they sought out other spiritual powers to grant them shalom.  Then, they oppressed the poor, forgetting that they were once poor themselves.  And finally, they took God’s rules and make them so burdensome that it became impossible to live them out.

Love Reign O’er Me
Finally, after all of these temporary experiments, God began his final plan for shalom.  He sent his Son to be emperor of the world, ruler of his people.  First, Jesus displayed shalom by setting people free from spiritual judgment, offering them freedom from diseases and mental illnesses and offering them a new life in God.  Then he told the people the life of shalom in God, living by the principles of shalom.  Then, finally, he allowed the rulers of God’s people—the priests and elders—to kill him, treating him as an outcast of God’s people.  But God vindicated his Son as the only way to God’s shalom, the great Truth-teller.  And a new people was created under Jesus, living Jesus’ shalom-principles and testing the world with their message of destruction of the anti-shalom and the establishment of God’s shalom.

Underground Revolution
Through Jesus, God is continually creating communities of shalom—some big and some small.  These communities are made up of those who were rejected by the world and who are baptized in Jesus—namely, those who have committed themselves to being citizens of Jesus’ new nation of shalom.  These baptized are committed to Jesus’ principles of peace and justice.  But these principles are not enough in and of themselves, because we all are too weak, as humans, to maintain shalom.  So the Emperor has allowed us to receive the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness to maintain shalom, even when we do not have the strength to live it out. 

            Then God sent these Jesus communities out into the world.  They preached the kingdom— the nation of shalom—and displayed the power of the Spirit.  Communities were in this way tested—would they accept the good proclamation of shalom through Jesus, or would they reject God’s shalom?  Would they practice shalom with the needy of Jesus, or would they reject them?

This time of testing continues on even today.  Many communities of the world—even many who claim Jesus to be Lord—reject Jesus’ principles of shalom.  Many in Jesus’ name harm and kill others.  Many in Jesus’ name refuse to help the needy.  Many in Jesus’ name even reject the true God and seek a distant Spirit who is unobtrusive and will never give anything, let alone shalom.

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