“Jesus-Shalom.” Why that title for this site? On the one hand, the answer is simple: we are Christians (hence the “Jesus” part) who wish for our convictions and practice, our thinking, feeling, and doing, to be oriented by a shalom vision and informed by shalom values (hence the “Shalom” part).
On the other hand, the answer is a bit more complicated, as we can see when we begin unpacking some of these terms. Let’s start with shalom. This is a Hebrew word, found in the Hebrew scriptures (sometimes called the First Testament or the Old Testament by Christians), which is often translated as “peace.” But the word is richer than that; it’s fuller sense is “wholeness” or “completeness,” with “relationship” and “connectedness” within that complete wholeness, and “harmony” and “peace” within those relational connections. Shalom, in sum, is the good, right, and beautiful relationship of all things—from God, through the cosmos, to our planet, into our communities, and out through every aspect of our lives.
Although this shalom is given to us Christians (it’s right there, in our scriptures!), it’s often missing in Christian perspectives on how to think, feel, and live in today’s world. Instead, we Christians often focus in on Jesus, and the New Testament (where we find accounts of him). And our theological traditions have taught us that this Jesus is not about—or not mainly about—all things and their harmonious relationship (or their reconciliation), but rather about personal things, namely, our individual lives, or, more specifically, our souls. We know these understandings of Jesus and Christianity, don’t we? Most of us are probably familiar with views that see the purpose of Jesus as dying on a cross, as punishment for human sin, so that the souls of those who have faith in Jesus can go to heaven when they die.
Those with such faith do, then, give our personal (and perhaps social) lives to patterns of care and service, including (at best) working for well-being, justice, and integrity in every sphere of life. But this work can seem, somehow, both secondary to saving faith in Jesus and detached, in some way, from who and what Jesus seemed to be about.
Once detached from Jesus, it is then possible for people of faith to move to a more activist orientation of faith, to a version of Christianity that embraces a more shalom oriented way of life and work, but drifts away from any engagement with Jesus, largely due to a rejection of the account of Jesus just noted.
We are left, then, with two unhappy options: 1) a version of Christian faith that is detached from a strong integration with shalom vision and values; or 2) an embrace of shalom vision and values that drifts away from any strong connection to Jesus.
And that’s where the hyphen in our title comes into play—we want this site to be place that maintains the connection between Jesus and shalom. And in this place we will explore how this connection might inform—transform—either side of the hyphen: how understandings of Jesus might alter our sense of shalom; and how understandings of shalom might alter our sense of Jesus.
In my next post I’ll add a bit more to this picture, but this is a good place to start.