On this blog I will consider what it means to be an agent of shalom--that most grandiose of bible words ever swooping all into its generous embrace.
Being that this is as broad an intention as it gets, whatever seems relevant to seeking God's best for everyone everywhere (especially you and right here) will be worth writing about.
I identify as a community developer. In this profession, we devote ourself to a particular place and its people, asking: "Who are they?" "What is happening?" "What needs to happen for each person to experience peace and justice?" You will find me asking and struggling to answer many forms of these questions in the days to come.
As a community developer called to cities I will pay particular attention to how this goal of shalom might come about in urban places. However, it won't take long to realize that I see everything intimately interrelated with everything else. No place, pursuit or idea exists in isolation from others, so to seek the welfare of the city means to seek the welfare of all geography. To consider economics--for example--is to all pose questions to politics, ecology, social systems, cultural identities and a whole host of other topics. Once we begin to tug at the loose ends dangling from the ball of yarn, we suddenly find the whole tangled mess drawing toward us. In no way do I imagine I can unknot much of it, but I hope to begin exposing bits and pieces of its contours.
If that sounds overly esoteric, let me try to focus by saying this:
Shalom, I am convinced, is the character of the Kingdom of God. Where Jesus is Lord, there is shalom. Shalom exists when all people equitably experience peace and justice, a comprehensive rightness in the relationship between all things. In his book with the word as its title, Perry Yoder says shalom can refer to a state in which well-being, prosperity, abundance, safety, justice and peace are normative for the community. We are provided examples of shalom through the healing, feeding, reconciling ministry of Jesus, in the sharing and mutually caring life of the early church (Act 2:42), and in the eschatological visions of the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev 21-22). As beings made in the image of God, every single human is meant to experience this abundance of life in synergistic community with others. It is meant for the whole of creation--plants, animals, cities, mountains, rivers and oceans included. Sadly, in our post-911/Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Eric Gardner/record domestic inequalities/immigration debate/(fill in the blank with the most recent injustice here) world, we are excruciatingly aware that many if not most of our neighbors fail to experience shalom. Power differentials, marginalization, exploitation, relational alienation and more all contribute to the disequilibrium in our societies. God's mission (and the mission he has entrusted to his church) is to restore this broken world to the shalom he yearns for it to enjoy.
So, what would shalom actually look like out there in the real world of buildings, families, workplaces and trees? And how does it come about? What strategies might we employ to help it manifest?
As a starting point, allow me to offer 12 Non-Exhaustive Principles for Leading to Shalom. These bubbled up for my own use, reminders of the Christ-like posture I desire but tend to forget. I put them out there embracing Henri Nouwen's conviction that “my life belongs to others just as much as it belongs to myself and that what is experienced as most unique often proves to be most solidly embedded in the common condition of being human.” Hopefully something universal can emerge as I unpack thoughts of meaning to my own particularities.
In the weeks ahead, I hope to circle around and through these points, expanding on them, exploring their biblical and theological background rationals, and proposing some related concrete practices. Please offer your perspectives as we go. This can only be a success if it is a community enterprise.
Peace n blessings,