The biblical vision of shalom goes much further than the self-focused concept of salvation we settle for. We are right to believe that God wants to eternally save us from our sins and adopt us into His eternal family.
This alone is huge but we fall short of the true biblical proportion of salvation.
One of the words used for salvation in the New Testament is the Greek word sozo. While we reduce it to mean ‘save’ it also can be translated ‘to heal, to preserve or to make whole.’
Salvation, shalom & healing are inseparable because salvation is the process whereby human beings are restored to wholeness and full relationship with God – body soul, spirit – not as individuals but in community with others and with God’s creation, what theologian Paul Tillich calls the “the act of cosmic healing”
Missiology’s David Bosch tells us “there is, in Jesus’ ministry, no tension between saving from sin and saving from physical ailment, between the spiritual and the social.”
Salvation carries with it the same sense of anticipation as shalom - the promise that God’s intention is to restore all things to wholeness.
Another New Testament ‘salvation word’ is the Greek word eirēnē. This word usually refers to political stability and order. This word reflects the Hebrew sense of shalom. For example,
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace (eirēnē) through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Howard Snyder explains “Peace in the New Testament has the same meaning as in the Old, but it now finds its focus and means in the person of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant in his blood”[i]
There have always been systems of justice in every culture. The fullness of God's intentions is realized in Jesus as the mediator of God's conciliatory nature.
Shalom is not just a human system, but insists on God's participation in human affairs. Shalom depends on Emmanuel, God with us. No Kingdom without the King. Call it benevolent theocracy where Jesus’ rule over our hearts brings the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. If your presence brings Jesus into view, you are an agent of God’s shalom.
Jonathan Kozol is an American writer who wrote eloquently about social justice. One of his books told stories of children in the Bronx living in poverty. There is a passage where Jonathan asks a thirteen year old named Anthony to imagine what heaven is like. His description is a hint of things to come when shalom finally settles on the earth with Christ’s return. Anthony said that in Heaven,
“God will be there. He’ll be happy that we have arrived. People shall come hand-in-hand. It will be bright, not dim and gloomy like on earth. All friendly animals will be there, but no mean ones. As for television, forget it! If you want vision, you can use your eyes to see the people that you love. No one will look at you from the outside. People will see you from the inside. All the people from the street will be there. My uncle will be there and he will be healed… No violence will there be in heaven. There will be no guns or drugs or IRS. You won’t have to pay taxes. You’ll recognize all the children who have died when they were little. Jesus will be good to them and play with them. At night he’ll come and visit at your home. God will be fond of you. How will you know that you are there? Something will tell you, ‘this is it! Eureka!’ If you still feel lonely in your heart, or bitterness, you’ll know that you’re not there.”[ii]
We’re not there yet. But we’re getting there. Maranatha! Even so, come Lord Jesus, come.