I'm continuing the discussion on a New Shalom from last month. To initiate this I claim that ultimately, Christ's purpose for coming to a broken world was restoration and redemption. (au.christiantoday.com)
As I mentioned in my last article, the kingdom that Christ came to establish, hinged upon one focal example of righteousness and fulfilled justice. This example was inaugurated by Christ's teaching as he demonstrated the kind of people that would herald this new kingdom, but Christ would have to challenge the ultimate perpetrator of suffering and justice – the power of evil in death itself.
Instead of bringing about justice through violent victory, Christ came to establish true justice by suffering on behalf of an undeserving community. Paradoxically, the ultimate example of human justice and righteousness was crucified on false premises, accepting death as the ultimate consequence of humanity's embrace of evil.
Quoting James Douglass in his book Justice Rising, Heagle states, 'The Human Being that Jesus shows us by the example of his life must suffer and die so that a new humanity will rise,' forging a new restorative justice – one that was capable of the original, intended shalom.
Three days after his crucifixion, this new representative of restorative justice defeated death entirely through resurrection – once again, as an example of the eternal nature of this new kingdom. Appearing to his disciples and issuing a new commission, the resurrected Christ wasted no time in urging his disciples to take an active role in the expansion of this new kingdom.
As Christ ascended to heaven, he had not only revealed a renewed vision of justice and righteousness to his disciples, but he had defeated death and suffering and atoned for the sins of humankind. Having restored the relationship between humankind and God, and having displayed how humanity was now to treat fellow humanity, the Messiah had indeed established an everlasting reign of peace upon the earth, and had restored shalom.
A Community of Justice and Peace
So we must ask ourselves: if Christ came to establish a kingdom of justice and peace, and restored shalom through his death and resurrection, what are the implications for His people?
In the parable of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25 verses 31-46, Jesus identifies true members of his kingdom as those who are willing to act upon their love for 'the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,' (25 verse 40). Jesus is stating that true members of God's kingdom will forge 'a new community that doesn't exclude the poor, the members of other races, or the powerless, and does deal with their needs sacrificially and practically,' (Keller 2010, p. 52).
Once again, the restorative shalom that Christ came to establish is evidenced in this parable. Those who are truly righteous – those who have been made righteous through Christ's sacrifice, will be driven to help 'the least of these' in nearly every aspect of what society defines as 'justice', in order to see God's kingdom of justice and righteousness be fulfilled on the earth.
The implications of this passage alone show a community that opens their homes and hearts to the homeless, gives financial aid, medical treatment and advocacy. The restoration of relationship between God and man invariably affects the relationship between humanity and fellow humanity as true members of God's kingdom are motivated by this 'new shalom' to build a community of justice and peace.
Finally, as an epilogue to the restorative message of the Gospels, the early church that formed after Christ's ascension almost immediately worked towards building this community. Giving to all those in need, sharing all that they had (Acts 4 verses 32-35), distributing food to the orphans and widows (Acts 6 verses 1-7), and welcoming the previously rejected Gentiles into the community (Acts 11 verses 17-19), the early church enacted upon the example of renewed justice that Christ established.
Summarised by the Greek word koinonia (meaning fellowship), this community evidenced by the early church would not have been possible if it weren't for Christ's sacrifice.
Pulling it together
From original creation, to the fall, to the Advent of Christ, 'restoring shalom through seeking God's justice is a leitmotif of the drama of redemption, (eds. McLaren, Padilla & Seeber, p. 45).
Christ indeed came not only that the personal sins of the world may be atoned, but also to restore the relationships that were severed when evil was embraced – relationships both vertical and horizontal.
The results of this restoration should be realised in the heart of every believer: to build a community of justice and peace – no longer encumbered by vengeance or retribution, but motivated by shalom and the love that was poured out on the cross.
Blaine Packer is studying a Bachelor of Cross-cultural Ministry at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies in Launceston, Tasmania.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html