The Concept of Shalom

Poverty is the problem we are trying to address at JustUs. Basically, we are working for the opposite of poverty! We define poverty as the result of broken relationships. Therefore our focus is on being part of the restoration of broken relationships. The word shalom is a word that goes a long way in describing this concept of restored relationships. So, I’d like to focus on the Hebrew concept of shalom for this blog.

Shalom is a Hebrew word indicating a state of completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety and soundness. Furthermore it means tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony and the absence of agitation or discord.

Defining Shalom

We often think of peace when we hear the word shalom, but the English concept of peace does not quite capture what shalom encompasses.

Here is what the theologian Cornelius Plantinga has to say about shalom.

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight, the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. It’s a rich state of affairs where natural needs are satisfied and natural giftings are fruitfully employed all under the arch of God and in His love. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”1Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, (Eerdmans, 1995) p. 10

Martin Luther King Jr. summarized it well when he said, “Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force–war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force–justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God.”2http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol03Scans/207_29-Mar-1956_When%20Peace%20Becomes%20Obnoxious.pdf

This relates back to our definition of poverty which we will explore further in the next blog. If poverty is the result of broken relationships – with God, others, creation and self – then shalom can be seen as wholeness in these relationships.

Here is a diagram that illustrates that:

Reflection

Take some time to ponder upon these questions if you want to explore shalom a little deeper.

  1. Think about your ideas about peace. Are they different from the concept of shalom presented in this blog?
  2. Shalom involves your relationship with God, with yourself, with neighbours near and far, and with the creation itself. Take a few minutes examine your heart on all of these relationships.
  3. Where do you see evidence of brokenness, or a lack of shalom seen in these relationships?
  4. And conversely, where do you see evidence of God’s shalom in each of these relationships?

The Challenge

Psalm 34: 14 compels us to, “Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace (shalom) and pursue it.”  As you go on with your work and life, seek shalom and integrate it in what you do.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, (Eerdmans, 1995) p. 10
2. http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol03Scans/207_29-Mar-1956_When%20Peace%20Becomes%20Obnoxious.pdf