Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #23: "God's Welfare System, part 1: Shalom"

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jeremiah 29.7, ESV)

"Shalom" is a Hebrew word uttered by Jewish people as a greeting everywhere. Its basic translation is "peace", but it has a far greater meaning than some simple truce or state of mind. SHALOM encapsulates wholeness, completeness, health, fullness, rest, harmony, well-being... When Jesus often greeted the disciples with "Peace be with you" ("Shalom aleichem", John 20.19, 21, 26), He was not merely hoping they'd be calm and happy; He fully intended that they receive complete fullness through Him as Saviour. Shalom is the process of restoration to wholeness. Jewish people in their greetings are expressing a yearning for something that only their promised Messiah could bring. And He did.

We live in a broken world, where the once-perfect, FULL relationship between God and man has been fractured by the chasm of sin. And yet in Christ we find the complete restoration of that relationship once again. In His perfect life, death and resurrection, Christ has made it possible for us to be reunited with God the Father: whole and complete. Christ is also known as "Sar Shalom", the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6): His shalom extends beyond salvation to the ultimate restoration of all things to how they were first intended. And that restoration begins right here, right now, through us as His people.

In our nation, the concept of a "welfare system" guarantees minimum standards, social protection and provision of services. But these can only go so far in healing the cracks we see around us in "Broken Britain": abuse, anger, addiction, hurt, sickness... Nothing will ultimately heal these except for Christ's shalom. And in the same context, when God spoke to the Jewish people through the prophet Jeremiah about their place of exile, He told them to "seek the welfare of the city". That very same word translated as welfare is... "shalom".

We too are called to seek the shalom - wholeness - of those around us through meeting their needs and expressing Christ's love for them. Look for the needs around you and be Christ to them. That's God's welfare system. We will continue to study this verse in depth over future Touchpapers but in the meantime, "Shalom aleichem". Peace be upon you and our town.


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