Shalom in the Home
I tend to speak less about issues of personal relationships and instead address big topics of society, politics and economics on this blog. The main reason for that is that I believe Christians have, by and large, actually put a lot of good thought into how following Jesus should play out interpersonally. We have done a much weaker job (due to, among other things, some reductionistic modern/Western/post-Reformation thought) of parsing through the political (in the broad sense) implications of our faith.
But I'm about to get married in two weeks to that radiant woman in the picture there, so thought I would share a little reflection on how shalom matters in our relationship.
The last blog post was based on the study of Colossians I have been doing this past year. But the reason I have been in Colossians wasn't for all the big scale, anti-empire implications it holds--it was as preparation for marriage (which has a lot of those implications too, but that's for another day).
Libbey and I chose Colossians 3:12-17 as the verse to carry us through engagement and into matrimony, and have read/reflected on this passage a hundred times this year.
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Right in the middle of these verses is Paul's most fervent hope for his readers...
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
This is what we yearn for and yet find it can be so illusive, even between two people who love each other so passionately. If peace is not being made here, can we really expect much to be happening out there?
We have found that there are some big time nuggets of wisdom crammed into this short passage. Together, they point the way toward letting Christ's shalom rule over our marriage--and possibly beyond. I hope they bless you today for whatever relationships you find yourself in.
This way of life flows from who we are "as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved," and out of our new identities in Christ (referenced earlier in Col). The beginning of wisdom is knowing who you are in relation to God--which is just another way of saying "the fear of the Lord." From this, we live in dependence on him and interdependence with each other plus the rest of humanity and creation. These are the roots for everything else!
If we could hold fast to the words in these verses--gentleness, kindness, patience, compassion, humility, gratitude, forgiveness, love--I think that would pretty much cover things. It's easy for the eyes to skim over them, but there are miles of depth in each. Imagine actually taking these seriously, every day, in every interaction! It boggles the mind and proves how far beyond our brokenness are the ways of God. And for this, we return to the above--our identities in Christ--and pray to him for the grace and strength to bear such lovely fruit towards one another.
A Daily Choice
Tim Keller says he laughs when people come to him and say, but love shouldn't be this hard! "Why not?" he replies, "Does a major league baseball player expect it to be easy or natural to hit a fast ball?" Nothing of true worth or meaning is automatic. Neither is living out the rhythms of God's shalom toward one another. By saying that we need to clothe ourselves in these virtues, Paul implies that they won't just become our natural self. It will have to be a continual, daily, minute by minute choice to express kindness, react in gentleness, listen with patience, suffer with one another compassionately, hold oneself with humility.
Gratitude and Forgiveness
This coupling seems particularly key for acquiring a shalom-esque disposition. These words--including the particularly thought provoking phrase "bear with"--appear more times in this passage than any other. Just chew on the difficulty and magnitude of actually living in gratitude and forgiveness. It shuts me up!
"Binds everything together in perfect harmony." An idea so big it penetrates to the center of the earth, passes straight through the soul, and takes in the whole cosmos. Love. There are fathomless depths in this word. It offers both a means and an end. Its complexity is made all the more bizarre and radical by a Savior who challenged his followers to extend its intimate embrace to their enemies, and who told us love was epitomized in God strung up bleeding on a Roman cross.
Inwards and Outwards
Biblical peace just doesn't work as private property. Our home can't be a place of shalom unless its flowing out the doors, pipes and windows. We want this to be our way of life both with one another and with the rest of the world. Marriage, we think, is both a main event in and of itself, and a training ground for service in the world. It is a context of discipleship, an incubator in which to become more like Jesus so that when we walk out these doors we are people who love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with our God. All of these principles hold as much weight between Libbey and I as they do when considering matters of city zoning policy or our disposition toward an ISIS militant. Such is the precipitous vocation of a Christian.
That's all I have to say on that. I've been married for negative fifteen days and am already failing at each of these regularly. To those of you who have some years of marriage under your belt, please shower your wisdom on us! And to all of you, we would cherish your prayers as we embark on this glorious adventure.