SHALOM IN THE STREETS
Christine Sine is a contemplative activist and a thoughtful writer. About the idea of Shalom, she wrote:
The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed is the fulfillment of the ‘shalom vision’ from the Old Testament. It is a place in which all humanity, particularly the poor and excluded, in fact all creation is freed from slavery and bondage reconciled and made whole. It is a new heaven and a new earth rich with the promise of shalom, of wholeness and well being for all and established through the mediation of Christ.
God’s vision of the restoration of shalom was obviously very much at the centre of Jesus’ life. Throughout the gospels Jesus went about bringing glimpses of God’s shalom future into peoples lives. Time after time He led them out of the old oppressions and into new freedoms.
To those enslaved by hunger, He gave the freedom of food and even envisioned the new kingdom as a great banquet. To the guilt-ridden, He announced forgiveness and release from the burden of sin. He came to lepers who had been excommunicated for their disease and freed them to come back with full acceptance into the community.
He came to the women who had been overlooked and often marginalized and gave them the assurance that they were of equal importance in the eyes of God. He came to the deaf and opened ears, to the blind and gave them sight. To all human kind He offered the hope of a new life and a new world in which shalom relationships were once again at the centre of life.[i]
We get a preview of Shalom every time the followers of Jesus demonstrate God’s Love to one another and to their communities.
Early Christians were notable for their outrageous love, and not for clever worship songs, big budgets or their political power. They were people who stepped into love when no one else would. Love is inarguable.
When the plague ravaged Rome in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, inciting an exodus of citizens, many Christians rushed in to care for the sick and dying, joining the many that were already there, refusing to leave. As church father Dionysius wrote in A.D. 260, "Most of the Christians in our city showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves … drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pain." (Rodney Stark famously argues that such outlandish compassion helped spur Christianity's meteoric rise throughout the empire.)[ii]