December 4, 2017
According to Adrian Helleman, blogger and editor of the blog, “What in the World?”, the true meaning of Christmas is to restore “Shalom” to the world. Shalom is the Hebrew word which means among other things, peace, safety, and absence of conflict. Helleman says that in essence, Shalom is the way God created the world before man’s sin disrupted the perfection of God’s creation.
Each day in our homes, and in the classrooms at FCS, we are a part of a process where natural human emotions emerge as a result of someone being wronged. In our society we title some of these wrongs with other terms like: bullying, disrespect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental anguish, and harassment. Jesus said to love and pray for those who harm us, Matthew 5:44-45 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But many times here at school and in our homes, there is an absence of Shalom. Sometimes in the light of hurt feelings or dealing with children who have been wronged, it seems almost absurd at that moment to think about restoration or reconciliation. But this is exactly what Christian parents and teachers are called to do. It is difficult to teach our children that even when they have been wronged, it is normal to be angry, and even to get mad. But when they combine deep feelings of anger with a desire for some kind of retaliation, what they get is revenge, not redemption. Unfortunately, our society teaches children to punish others and hurt them just the way they have been hurt. Our responsibility, to teach and to practice ourselves, is that true justice leads to a desire to bring the one who offends to wholeness and healing, whenever an offense takes place. Human nature says that if you get your feelings hurt, you lash out, but Biblical vengeance and true justice sees a limit to the punishment of the offender and at some point requires Shalom.
There is a story about young Abraham Lincoln, who as an attorney handled a case that is an example of restoration and wholeness, even with someone is seeking revenge. Young Lincoln was approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a lawsuit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! Lincoln’s amazing and ingenious settlement, and the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it, should be an encouragement to us with our children and students, to seek ways that do not just settle differences when someone is wronged and achieve justice, but that begin the process of healing and restoring a whole relationship that has been broken.
In the Old Testament the ultimate goal of achieving true justice was to come to know God better. “Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 22:15b-16. In addition to knowing God better, they taught that doing justice leads to shalom, peace. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness abides in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever,” Isaiah 31:16-17.
For us as parents and teachers, our goal is to teach our students to know God better. But we are also challenged daily to maintain peace (Shalom) at home and in our classrooms. The Bible says that where there is justice, there is the possibility of peace (Shalom). But we know that the opposite is also true, that where there is oppression and injustice, there can be no peace (Shalom.) One of the names of God in the Bible is, Jehovah Shalom, which means “The Lord is Peace.” Jehovah Shalom calls us to experience in our lives more than the absence of bickering and fighting. Shalom involves all the conditions of life that make for wholeness and harmony. Shalom is the goal of Jehovah God’s work as deliverer and liberator. God’s purpose in the world is to restore Shalom wherever it has been broken. In fact, God’s will for all mankind is Shalom, through His Son Jesus Christ. It is the task for us as parents and Christian educators, to do God’s will every day in our homes and in our classrooms, by using the normal situations which we encounter, as an opportunity to further the work of Jehovah Shalom by promoting restoration and wholeness when dealing with the wrongs and injustices we and our children experience each day.