Shalom for the Holidays
There's a lot of talk this time of the year about peace. We sing songs about peace, hear Scripture passages about peace, see signs and Christmas decorations with the word "peace" in them...it seems like peace is being referenced everywhere! But what's the deal with peace? What did the angel refer to when he said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" to the shepherds Luke 2:14? When you begin to look into the meaning and implications of biblical peace, namby-pamby Christmas decorations & greeting cards do very little to capture the true essence of peace.
The Old Testament word for peace is "shalom." To say the least, shalom is much more than a simple greeting or kind verbal jester. The biblical concept of shalom takes us to the heart of the Gospel and unfolds the mysteries of God's providential and redemptive plan for entire cosmos. Many authors and scholars have commented on how we should understand shalom; but I have found none better than Cornelius Plantinga in his book, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin.
Here's a great quote taken from his book:
"[The prophets] dreamed of a new age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain. The foolish would be made wise and the wise, humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps. People would work in peace and work to fruitful effect. Lambs could lie down with lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God and delight in God. Shouts of joy and recognition would well up from valleys and seas, from women in streets and from men on ships."
"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."