Most of us recognize the word “shalom” when we see it and understand that it means “peace.” And yet that’s just the tip of what I’m calling the “shalom-berg.” It’s not just peace, and it’s not just a word. It’s a life-giving, life-enriching, life-breathing peace like none other—a peace that the English language just cannot grasp.
The Hebrew writers of the Old Testament use the word “shalom” more than 200 times. In Exodus 20:24, it’s used to describe the peace offering to consecrate a relationship between God and people; in Genesis 15:15 it refers to one’s well-being or success and even one’s salvation. But then we have a scattering of “shalom” meanings: being complete and unharmed, prosperity, unity, and perfection. The list is long, the texts are beautiful, and the “shalom-berg” gets bigger the further down we go.
Where do all of these shaloms come full circle in Scripture? In Jesus. The Bible declares that Jesus is our “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Jesus embodies all these beautiful understandings of shalom; he is our Prince of Shalom. Every “shalom” we hear or read points us directly to Jesus Christ.
Jesus speaks to us and gives us peace. His words, love, and guidance are peaceful and good. His is a peace that always was and will always be. And when we begin to see Jesus as our shalom, we begin to understand the depth and hope of that shalom:
- We read in 1 Timothy 2:5 that Jesus Christ as mediator restores our broken relationship with God and gives us shalom with God. Jesus’ death was the payment for our sins, the restoration of our lives, and the declaration of eternal shalom that awaits us.
- Jesus also restores our relationships with others. In his death and resurrection we are given shalom, as all the animosity between us is washed away by his blood.
- With Jesus’ return we’ll have shalom with the earth in the new creation. No more will we be living the words of Genesis 3:17-19, when animosity and sin wreaked havoc on the relationship of humans to creation.
As I look at this world I am thankful for the shalom we’re given and the shalom that awaits us. This world is messed up, and clearly, when it’s left up to us, we don’t make it better. But we cannot just toss up our hands and do nothing, because on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), Shalom came down to us once more and took root in our lives—an indwelling of shalom that convicts and sends. That means that we are to live out shalom within and outside ourselves and around the world. And as we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth, to be his representatives here and around the world, we must therefore bring shalom. Every act of shalom is a reflection of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the Prince of Shalom we worship.
So how are you sharing shalom today at home, at work, at the grocery store, on the soccer field, on the airplane, talking to your neighbor, or with your family?
- What did you understand the word “shalom” to mean?
- How do we recognize shalom in our world? What are some of the marks or signs of shalom we can see?
- How do we, either individually or collectively, work alongside Jesus in fostering shalom?
- As the author asked: “How are you sharing shalom today at home, at work, at the grocery store, on the soccer field, on the airplane, talking to your neighbor, or with your family?”