Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fighting for Peace: The Concept of Shalom in the Bible

I've discussed before how many people within popular church culture, especially of the emerging variety, have an over-realized eschatology that affects the way they think about modern controversies. For many of these people, we have already entered into shalom. Hence, arguing over theology and ethics is disrupting the peace we should already have with one another. In other words, peace has been achieved already and so people who keep fighting are disrupting it. They are fighting against it.

But biblical shalom needs to be understood as more than simply getting along with other people. If that is what shalom is then the pomo church is right and we just need to be cordial to one another at all costs and minimize the amount of theology and ethics over which we argue until we eventually cease arguments altogether. After all, if peace means to get along with others then arguing is the exact opposite of securing peace.

The problem with this is that shalom in the Bible refers to a reckoning. It is the making of all things right again. Such an understanding of the concept changes our thinking about fighting itself. Fighting to reconcile all things, to put them back into their proper place, and to restore order gained from what is true and good is an avenue toward peace. In fact, when those who distort what is true and good, then they distort who God is and what He establishes. They destroy order and set up chaos in its place. Whether intentionally or not, fighting must take place in order to restore the order and bring about biblical shalom. Shalom, then, becomes rest only because order has been restored, or one has died and thus is placed at rest from the fight here on earth. But the implications are clear. If fighting does not take place in a chaotic realm then biblical peace cannot be established. Fighting to restore what is true and good is a fight to bring about shalom. Fighting then is the means to shalom, not a hindrance to it. Indeed, to not fight when truth and good are distorted and exchanged for falsehood and evil, is to hinder biblical shalom from ever coming about.

On physical level, we can understand this. Peace is not gained by letting Nazis take over the world and trying to appease and get along with them. That is to let chaos  and destruction thrive. Instead, the Nazi threat needed to be met with war and violence in an effort to destroy the threat and restore the order that preserves an environment that is non-threatening toward human life. Biblical shalom is much the same, as it seeks all of this in its goal to exalt God as Lord and King over His people in what is true and good.

This is why in the conflict between Jeremiah (the true prophet) and the false prophets that God declares that people arguing for "Peace," are asking for it in a situation that there can be no peace, simply because what is false is still being exalted as true and what is good is still be discarded for evil. If biblical peace were merely getting along then these false prophets would be correct in arguing that Jeremiah should just stop stirring up trouble by condemning what is false and evil. But since biblical shalom is not just getting along, but a restoration of the order of truth and good in order to exalt God to His proper place as King over us, then getting along in this situation is itself an evil that seeks to prevent order from being reestablished, and therefore, prevents God from being exalted as our King.

Hence, to not fight in order to bring about shalom is a great evil rather than a great good. We see, then, that one's over-realized eschatology ends up with a false peace that is of the world rather than the peace that restores God to His rightful place in truth and good, and restores us as His people free from the threat of chaos.

"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,  Saying, `Peace, peace,'  But there is no  peace . "Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?  They were not even ashamed at all;  They did not even know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;  At the time that I punish them,  They shall be cast down," says the Lord. Thus says the Lord,  "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,  Where the good way is, and walk in it;  And you will find rest for your souls.  But they said, `We will not walk [in it].'  (Jer 6:14-16)

No comments:

Post a Comment