By Dr. Ken Shuman
As I write this blog post our nation is about to conclude the most controversial presidential election that I’ve ever witnessed. Our nation is polarized and divided. The candidates are often hated and vilified. Common decency has been thrown out the window. Many are afraid, suspicious, reactive, and just rude. So what happens now? What happens if your preferred candidate loses? How do you behave if your preferred candidate wins? What is the appropriate way for a follower of Jesus to respond? What does the Bible teach us about living in an Empire or Kingdom that isn’t the one we would hope for?
I believe that God’s mission in our world is the establishment of what the prophets of Israel called “Shalom.” Shalom is most often translated as peace but it has a deeper meaning. “Shalom is derived from a root that conveys the image of wholeness, unity, and harmony – something that is complete and sound.” (The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words) Shalom is an announcement of how the world should be and isn’t yet. It is a world that is safe, free, whole, secure, just, and reconciled.
In Jeremiah 29:7 the prophet of God spoke to the nation of Israel after they have been over thrown by the Babylonian Empire. In this text I believe that Jeremiah answered the question of “what now?” What do we do now that we are in captivity? His answer was to pursue Shalom.
“Pursue the peace (Shalom) and welfare of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to Me, the Eternal, for Babylon because if it has peace (Shalom), you will live in peace (Shalom).” (The Voice translation)
I believe that the call to pursue Shalom is the answer for us as well today. What if my preferred candidate loses the election? Pursue Shalom. What if my preferred candidate wins? Pursue Shalom. What if things don’t turn out the way I hope? Pursue Shalom.
What does it look like to pursue Shalom as a practice in one’s daily life? I believe that pursuing Shalom will include:
- Pursuing unity and harmony even in the midst of our diversity.
- Treating every person with respect and dignity.
- Pursuing well-being for everyone not just for me.
- Pursuing reconciliation even when I disagree.
- Every person being treated right and fair – not matter their race, religion, beliefs or practices.
- Every person having enough.
- Every person having opportunity.
As we pursue Shalom – wholeness will begin to be restored. Things will begin to work in the manner that they were intended to by God. Systems will be sound and effective. Everyone will be safe and everyone will be free. The environment will be healthy.
So now what? The prophet Jeremiah said that if we pursue peace (Shalom) where we are then we can count on living in peace (Shalom). Our peace is contingent upon our pursuit of peace for others. Would you join me in pursuing Shalom? Would you become a model and a minister of reconciliation no matter what happens in this election? Would you join me in pursuing the peace and welfare of everyone? Would you respond with love rather than reacting out of fear?