In a day of depressing headlines and uncertainty, it’s inspiring to hear good news. The word Gospel means “Good News,” so the Gospel of Christ is the Good News of His coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who believe. The Bible tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). What better news could there be than Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we might become the children of God through faith alone in Christ alone? But for many Christians, the Good News of the Gospel doesn’t seem good enough. When we turn on the nightly news, we still see violence, anger and brokenness. When we look at our relationships, we deal with anxiety and drama. When we look at the comment thread of any post shared on social media, we are bombarded with racial tension and hate. So many people are missing out on the biblical call to shalom, says author Lisa Sharon Harper in her book “The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Can Be Made Right.”
Harper’s account of the Gospel is shalom-based. This is a theme that runs though the Bible but is especially strong in the Hebrew prophets. In this account, God acts in Jesus Christ to bring shalom, or holistic peace and justice, in every part of creation. God wants shalom between all types of people: shalom between men and women, shalom for the disenfranchised, and shalom in our homes. God wants shalom to cross racial divides and shalom between nations. God is an advocate for shalom.
“At its heart the biblical concept of shalom is about God’s vision for the emphatic goodness of all relationships,” Harper says.
In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well-being, tranquility, prosperity and security. It denotes the overcoming of strife, quarrel and social tension. Shalom is a manifestation of divine grace. However, the biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is unrelated to circumstances; It is a goodness of life that is not touched by what happens on the outside. You may be in the midst of great trials and still have biblical peace. Paul said he could be content in any circumstance, and he demonstrated that he had peace even in the jail at Philippi, where he sang and remained confident that God had been gracious to him. Then when the opportunity opened up, he communicated god’s goodness to the Philippian jailer, and brought him and his family to salvation. Peace defied Paul’s circumstances.
Most people in our world have trouble understanding peace as a positive concept. All they know is the negative aspect of peace, which is the absence of trouble. So the question becomes where do we as Christians find the kind of peace that is not just the absence of trouble – the kind of peace that cannot be affected by trouble, danger or sorrow? The most definitive discourse on peace in all scriptures comes directly from our lord Jesus Christ on the night before he died in agony on the cross. While he knew what he was facing, He still took the time to comfort His disciples with the message of peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). The peace Jesus is referring to enables believers to remain calm in the most fearful and painful of circumstances. This kind of peace enables them to hush a cry, rejoice in the pain of trial and sing in the middle of suffering. This peace isn’t ruled by circumstance, but instead affects and even overrules them.
If you take a look at the New Testament, you will see that it speaks of two kinds of peace – the peace that deals with our relationship with god and the peace that has to do with our experiences in life. We naturally lack peace with God. We come into the world in fighting against God, because we are part of the rebellion that started with Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). We were enemies of God who fought against God and everything we did prevented His principles. Yet, when we receive Jesus Christ, we are no longer enemies of God. We come over to His side. There is no more hostility. Jesus Christ wrote this treaty with his blood on the cross. This bond, that covenant of peace declares that we now are at peace with Him.
Shalom is when the image of God is recognized, protected and cultivated in every single human. It is our personal calling as followers of Jesus’ Gospel. It is the vision god set forth in the garden and the restoration God desires for every broken relationship. Shalom is the “very good” in the Gospel. Despite our anxious minds, despite threats of violence and despite division, God’s vision remains: peace for a hurting soul and wholeness for a fragmented world.
We are offered a powerful result when we turn to peace. Jesus shows us the proper response to His promise of peace, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). As followers of Christ, we should be able to lay hold of this peace. Jesus says, ‘I give you peace,’ and then says, ‘Do not let your heart be troubled.’ It’s crucial that we not only receive the peace He gives us, but that we also apply this peace in our lives. If we hold onto the promise of the very peace of Christ, we will have calm, untroubled hearts, regardless of external circumstances. Trust in the promise of peace.