The Goal Is Shalom

by Mike McKinniss

As a product of the West in the late 20th century, I don’t like talking about sin in the way that traditional evangelical churches like to talk about sin.  I bristled when in a seminary evangelism class it was seen as imperative to make one aware of her sin before she could be saved.  Like holding a drowning swimmer under water before throwing a life-preserver, we had to be sure to pound her with her own shortcomings before we could offer any help.

I was excited, then, when I came across this fresh interpretation of “sin” over at Storied Theology.  Does it make sense to conceive of sin, primarily, as those actions which do not contribute to rebuilding or potentially strip the world of shalom (that is, the fullness of life and peace and wholeness)?  I don’t think that this detracts from the more common understanding, that sinful actions are those that miss the mark of God’s will, whatever that may be in a particular instance.  But instead of having to rack your brain attempting to decipher God’s will (the bane of every Christian college student), you simply can ask, Does this action forward the Lord’s plan to restore peace?

Immediately upon seeing this new thought, I began thinking backwards.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, calls his own work the “ministry of reconciliation.”  In other words, Paul was announcing and implementing a new peace agreement.  He thought himself to be informing the world of the Christ’s work in reconstructing a state of shalom between the Creator and humanity (not to mention among all creation  itself).

Indeed, Paul, as well as other biblical authors, foresaw an end in which all of creation, including the natural world, would rejoice in the finished work of the Messiah.  Romans 8:20-22 describes a natural order that has been in a frustrated state since the initial shalom-breaking committed by Adam.  Isaiah, long before Paul, anticipated a similar restoration of creation (55:12-13).  And Revelation depicts a new creation that supplants all disorder (1:1ff; in biblical terms, a world without a sea is a world without chaos).

An all-encompassing peace was shattered.  This same pervasive peace is being reestablished in Christ.  The question for me is, then, How can I get behind that?