Fight for Shalom
Blog Contributor Katherine Gunning offers a passionate plea for followers of Christ to not simply keep the peace but to fight for the reconciliation and restoration of all things. If we long for God's true kingdom to advance, we have to care about justice for all and we are called to fight on behalf of the oppressed.
By Katherine Gunning, Blog Contributor
Over the last few weeks, you may have seen numerous protest signs that say:
“NO JUSTICE. NO PEACE.”
Did you know that this is actually a biblical concept?
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom.
As is the problem with many translations, our English definition really misses the heart of what this Hebrew word means. Most simply put, shalom is completion or wholeness.
In Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s book "Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be," he further describes shalom this way:
“In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”—Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
Did you catch that? True shalom is not only not fighting one another or avoiding conflict. It refers to the right ordering of things, to what’s broken being restored. As people working towards and longing for the Kingdom of God to come on earth, what we’re really giving ourselves and our lives to is the vision of shalom, the reconciliation and restoration of all things.
In Plantinga’s book, he brings forth the idea that sin is the “vandalism of shalom.”
These last few weeks it has been undeniably clear: shalom has been vandalized.
No Justice, No Peace
And as it turns out, shalom has never been a reality for the Black community in America. Shalom for the Black community has been systematically vandalized in our country since its foundation and continues today, now with camera phone evidence.
The murder of George Floyd showed us once again with horrific clarity that things are not as they ought to be. Our Black brothers and sisters are not receiving the equal opportunity to flourish as they were created to. They are still oppressed by a system designed to keep a knee on their necks. And it’s not right.
No justice, no peace.
No justice, no shalom.
If we are truly people longing for the true kingdom of peace to come, we have to care about justice. It’s simply not optional. You cannot have one without the other.
Maybe you feel like the current unrest isn’t your problem to deal with: you didn’t create it.
Maybe you’re hesitant to speak up because you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.
Maybe you don’t want to get involved because you fear to be divisive.
Maybe you feel guilty for your complicity up to this point, and facing that guilt is paralyzing you from taking action.
If that’s you, lean in.
"Blessed Are the Peacemakers"
In his most famous sermon ever, Jesus, our Prince of Shalom, says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Notice what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” No. He chose “peacemakers” for a purpose.
As was said before, shalom doesn’t happen from a mere cease-fire. It’s not just cutting off conflict. In my mind, that’s what a peacekeeper is. Someone who stops the fighting, or someone who makes sure no one starts fighting.
Jesus certainly wasn’t a peacekeeper. He got angry and flipped tables and used strong words when he saw shalom vandalized and the people he loved treated wrongly.
Peacemaking is much harder, much more involved. It requires action and movement forward. If we want shalom, wholeness, what’s been vandalized and broken must be made right again.
Fighting for justice is the work of a peacemaker.
Believers, I implore you: do not “keep the peace.” Raise holy hell if that’s what it takes to see shalom.
And do it all in the tradition of Jesus: ”in your anger, do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). To be angry in and of itself is not sinful—it means you are seeing something that is wrong, something that is not as it should be. But if we are to truly look like Jesus, we’re called to fight for shalom in a way that emulates his posture of grace. In order to see real, lasting change, we’re to engage in a way that empowers and believes in others to be better, rather than belittles them for not being better already.
Remember, we all have growing to do, and heaping shame on others will not get us where we want to go. As you pursue peace, don’t forget the divine image present in all, no matter how much you might disagree. Fight for shalom, but do it with love.
Call your representatives.
Shout on social media.
Have hard conversations with your friends and family (many times if needed).
Get educated on the history of oppression in our country and learn how you can play your part in ending it.
Seek out and listen to stories and experiences that are different than your own.
Look around you and see how the system you live in oppresses others, and then take action to do what you can where you are with what you have to make a change.
You have an opportunity to stand with God who always stands for the oppressed. And peacemaking is not just for this cultural moment—it’s a lifestyle. This work is slow, and it will take a long time. But let’s begin, and then keep going.
No justice, no peace.
Let’s do what we can to demand justice and see shalom for all.
“Word Study: Shalom - ‘Peace.’” YouTube, The Bible Project, 30 Nov. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLYORLZOaZE
Plantinga, Cornelius. Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: a Breviary of Sin. Eerdmans, 1999