I’ve been re-reading Brueggemann’s book Peace (2001). Here are a bunch of excerpts from the first chapter.
That persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible; a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness. But the term that in recent discussions has been used to summarize that controlling vision is shalom. Both in such discussion and in the Bible itself, it bears tremendous freight–the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, drivenness, and misery.
Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation. It refers to all those resources and factors that make communal harmony joyous and effective.
Shalom comes only to the inclusive, embracing community that excludes none.
A second dimension of shalom is the historic political community. Absence of shalom and lack of harmony are expressed in social disorder as evidenced in economic inequality, judicial perversion, and political oppression and exclusivism.
The doing of righteousness and justice results in the building of viable community, that is, shalom, in which the oppressed and disenfranchised have dignity and power.
The consequence of justice and righteousness is shalom, an enduring Sabbath of joy and well-being. But the alternative is injustice and oppression, which lead inevitably to turmoil and anxiety, with no chance of well-being (Isaiah 48:22; 57:21).
In historic community, the forces of injustice and exploitation are opposed by God’s will for responsible, equitable justice, which yields security. In personal existence, driven, anxious self-seeking is opposed by God’s will for generous caring. The biblical vision of shalom functions always as a firm rejection of values and lifestyles that seek security and well-being in manipulative ways at the expense of another part of creation, another part of the community, or a brother or sister.
But shalom is not subject to our best knowledge or our cleverist gimmicks. It comes only through the costly way of caring.
It is profound and disturbing to discover that this remarkable religious vision will have to be actualized in the civil community. The stuff of well-being is the sordid collection of rulers, soldiers, wardens, and carpetbaggers in Judah and in every place of displaced, exhausted hope.
Shalom of a biblical kind is always somewhat scandalous–never simply a liturgical experience or a mythical statement, but one facing our deepest divisions and countering with a vision.
Addressing Galatians 3:28-29:
Called to the Lord’s single community, bearers of God’s single promise, children of the one Abraham. Paul runs blatantly over our favorite divisions–black-white, rich-poor, male-female, East-West, old-young, or whatever…. Then Paul comes right out and says it ever more flatly: “He [Jesus] is our peace (shalom)” (Ephesians 2:14).
For more on shalom, click here.