Answering a “why” question from my 4 year old granddaughter rarely can be The Final Answer. She always seems to want to know more. Unless in your answers you build dead ends to all possible further questions, it could go on and on.
There is something about the way we are wired. Whether it is a movie, storyline, music or relationship, we need resolution. Don’t you just squirm with anxiety when a TV series stops an episode or season leaving you hanging? And music without a resolving chord seems as unsatisfying as a kiss on the cheek. Why is that? Why does a dangling participle evoke a craving for correction? Why does a story told without ending in justice disturb one’s peace? Why will it tear us up when the one we love walks out seemingly unfazed about how you feel? But there I go down the “why” trail like my granddaughter.
A lasting peace requires a resolution of the initial subject of conflict. You see, we will never have peace in the Middle east until original issues are faced and resolved. We have tried the non-conflict standoff many, many times. But much closer to home are many examples of the same long term clashes. The governed against the government, churches against each other, management vs. the worker bees, straight vs. gay, spouses at odds, you get the picture. Mediation and counseling services are in demand more than ever. Some aim at getting each to respect the other in their right to be who they are. Others are advised to hold their position while giving just enough to pacify the other.
The right to remain polarized rarely results in re-solution (returning to pre-conflict harmony, or a solution). Even if the other side is conquered there remains a latent anger and hatred that can seethe for generations. One day the Hatfields and McCoys, the Arabs and Jews, the war of the Roses or the Repubs and Demos will resurface and the brawl will resume.
What is needed is a spirit of shalom: in our homes, in our communities, in churches in our country and globally. There will be no peace until the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, has brought his Kingdom aroma into the arena. Meanwhile, those who are committed to seeing his Kingdom come bring their piece of peace to bear in everyday life.
Shalom is infectious and satisfying. An atmosphere of gentleness, grace and love, though difficult, is worth the energy and time and will reap a “harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18) In context, righteousness means justice, a resolution of former conflict. This brings a sigh of joy and fulfillment as peace is re-stored.
However, here is much more to shalom than peace. The historical use of the concept evokes the idea of an environment that closely resembles many biblical descriptions of heaven. Wikipedia shares the following insight; “Shalom, as term and message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. To say joy and peace, meaning a state of affairs where there is no dispute or war, does not begin to describe the sense of the term. Completeness seems to be at the center of shalom.” This idea certainly connotes a happy, satisfying and resolved existence.
In the book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, author Cornelius Plantinga described the Old Testament concept of shalom:
“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call 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 – 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.”
There is, deep within each of us, a knowing/feeling that there should be much more to life than we presently experience. Like there is still another shoe waiting to be dropped. There is a hunger for the “not yet” to arrive when we can finally breathe in and exhale with complete joy. Is it possible before we assume room temperature? I don’t know. I do know that Jesus said the Kingdom is within us so there is a measure of shalom inside. If we could let it out and allow it to spread by building relationships with authentic Jesus character traits, our culture and communities would experience shalom. Know anyone that seems too tightly strung and needs a breath of peace?
The atmosphere and character of shalom is deep and deserves exploring and pursuing. I believe it is the heart of the coming Kingdom. Why? The Bible tells me so.