Tirelessly Pursuing Shalom
— By Danny Malec —
Blessed is the [one] who finds wisdom, the [one] who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare to her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant and all her paths are peace.Proverbs 3:13-17
This scripture clearly lifts up God’s wisdom and ways of being as the way that would be most profitable for my soul. “All her paths are peace.” Often, when I have read about God’s peace, I have imagined a feeling of comfort and ease. However, as I learn more about the Hebrew understanding of “shalom,” which is the root of peace, I am coming to understand that it is a condition more rooted in justice and right-relationship. In other words, this journey with God should lead to a deepening of faith, understanding and wisdom, which is manifest in our day to day efforts at building shalom.
Author Cornelius Plantinga describes shalom as, “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight.” Shalom is God’s vision for all beings that inhabit the earth – a condition of prosperity, well being and fulfillment for all.
As a white, cisgender man in America, seeking prosperity, wellbeing and fulfillment has never been a challenge or a stretch. Schools, the workplace, sports, enrichment activities, etc. are all designed for the advancement of white boys like me. At the same time, real fulfillment has also always seemed elusive. I think that is rooted in the idea that Martin Luther King expressed when he said, “All I’m saying is simply this: that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
We know now, more than ever, that God’s vision of shalom remains out of reach for so many around us. The pandemic has brought this into crystal clear focus. As Christians, we do not have a choice. With a spirit of hope and compassion, we are invited to work for shalom for our neighbors who have experienced it least. This is the way that “yields better returns than gold.”
But what might that look like for me concretely?
First and foremost, I recognize the need to be “transformed by the renewing of [my] mind” (Romans 12:2). White supremacy, homophobia and patriarchy are all well rooted in me. I must work daily to heal from this wound, for there is only the supremacy of love in shalom.
In addition, how am I giving of myself for the building of just systems and structures. Part of this work is naming historical and present day systems that generate oppression and injustice and working to make them better. How can we commit to more just public policy for the future, if we are not willing to make amends for the sins of our past. I must give of my time, energy, and money without counting the cost. There’s a movement for reparations in Athens, where do I sign up? A homeless friend asks for help, can I lend a hand without thinking twice? A friend of color is organizing to speak truth to power, how can I be of service? How do I love as if my life depended upon it? How do I quiet my ego-driven mind and allow my heart to lead? I believe it is through the heart that we find wisdom.
What good is the body of Christ, if we are not tirelessly pursuing shalom – prosperity, wellbeing and fulfillment for all of God’s children? Family, we’ve got work to do. Let’s get to it with love in our hearts.
Dear God, is there anything more beautiful, anything more precious than your vision of shalom? You invite us in. You show us the way. Yet, our minds are clouded and our hearts are hardened. Help us dear God, to transform our hearts and minds to be servants of your beloved community, being and working for love and justice in all that we do and all that we are. Let us not be content with the easy path, but guide us in your wisdom, for we know that all of her paths are peace. Amen.