A Voter’s Guide: Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley (pp.14-16)

A Voter’s Guide: Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley (pp.14-16) October 23, 2012

Shalom is meant to be both personal (emphasizing our relationships with others) and structural (replacing systems where shalom has been broken or which produce broken shalom, such as war or greed-driven economic systems). In shalom, the old structures and systems are replaced with new structures and new systems. The universal expectation for all humanity to live out shalom has been given. Shalom has been decreed. God expects us to make the old way of living new. The Creator requires us to re-shape the world we know into the world God has intended.

The task of creating communities where shalom is lived out may not be easy, but we can know whether or not we are successful in our efforts. How can a community tell if it is practicing shalom? Fortunately, a consistent standard is given throughout the sacred Scriptures. Shalom is always tested on the margins of a society and revealed by how the poor, oppressed, disempowered, and needy are treated. A huge gap between the wealthy and the poor may be a good indicator of the lack of shalom. Large discrepancies between wealth and poverty tend to lead to social oppression through injustice, which leads to other social ills like false imprisonment and disproportionate imprisoned populations of the marginalized (like minorities), unemployment, disproportionate military service by the poor and marginalized groups, high taxes (to support imperialism and the military), the opulence of the wealthy (and corporate tax welfare), children growing up without one or both parents, homelessness, prostitution, hunger, etcetera. These same social dynamics have remained unchanged in societies for thousands of years. As Jeremiah 5:28 notes in his day, “They have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.”

A society concerned with shalom will care for the most marginalized among them. God has a special concern for the poor and needy, because how we treat them reveals our hearts, regardless of the rhetoric we employ to make ourselves sound just. Jeremiah 22:16 (NLT) equates the social task of caring to revealing a genuine relationship with God: “[King Josiah] gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. ‘Isn’t that what it means to know me?’ says the Lord.”

Even a society with the abuse of wealth can find ways to meet the needs of the most needy among them. If not, the problem becomes systemic and eventually everyone, even the non-wealthy, are considered by God to be culpable. If injustice is left unchecked, “Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice,” accord- ing to Ezekiel 22:29 (NLT). Amos 5:12 describes systemic oppression of the poor like this: “For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” And again in Amos 8:4-5 (NLT): “Listen to this, you who rob the poor and trample down the needy! You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless. You measure out grain with dishonest measures and cheat the buyer with dishonest scales.” Injustice against the poor reveals our own state of shalom and the posture God takes for us or against us.

Widows, orphans, and foreigners/strangers/resident aliens (depending on translation) appear as a triad throughout the Hebrew Testament representing the concerns of the poor, needy, downtrodden, oppressed, and disempowered. Why? In a patriarchal society the needs of these three are more apparent than others. A woman who has lost her husband has also lost all her legal and social standing. She is at the mercy of society. An orphan, having suffered a traumatic loss, is without an inheritance because he/she has no father and therefore no future. A foreigner, perhaps homeless from war or tragedy, is considered an outsider with no family ties and therefore no means of inheritance. A stranger does not know the ways of the people and is not easily trusted, so God commands immediate hospitality and eventual full acceptance for such people. The disempowered triad of widows, orphans, and strangers best represent God’s concern for those who have few material goods (food, clothing, shelter) and who are most easily oppressed (justice). Shalom addresses God’s concern for the socially marginalized.

"Pains me to report that, a recent colleague from Princeton informed me of sexual and ..."

The Body Never Lies
"i do find actual antimuslim prejudice a problem"

Christian Prejudice Towards Muslims is Antithetical ..."
"Oh, the emergent cohort, community, village, communal, cooperative, etc is still alive but in stealth ..."

Emergent Village Is NOT Dead. It’s ..."
""The police make an automatic referral of the domestic violence call to the Department of ..."

You need to listen to Richard ..."

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • kalim

    I want to share this sentences From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi

    Be certain of this, that the highest aim of creation and its most important result are belief in God. The most exalted rank in humanity and its highest degree are the knowledge of God contained within belief in God. The most radiant happiness and sweetest bounty for jinn and human beings are the love of God contained within the knowledge of God. And the purest joy for the human spirit and the sheerest delight for man’s heart are the rapture of the spirit contained within the love of God. Indeed, all true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and untroubled pleasure lie in knowledge of God and love of God; they cannot exist without them.
    One who knows and loves God Almighty is potentially able to receive endless bounties, happiness, lights, and mysteries. While one who does not truly know and love him is afflicted spiritually and materially by endless misery, pain, and fears. Even if such an impotent and miserable person owned the whole world, it would be worth nothing for him, for it would seem to him that he was living a fruitless life among the vagrant human race in a wretched world without owner or protector. Everyone may understand just how wretched and bewildered is man among the vagrant human race in this bewildering fleeting world if he does not know his Owner, if he does not discover his Master. But if he does discover and know Him, he will seek refuge in His mercy and will rely on His power. The desolate world will turn into a place of recreation and pleasure, it will become a place of trade for the hereafter.

  • Thank you Randy for the reminder that caring for the marginalized not only is what God wants us to do, but is also one of the key ways we express allowing God to make us into the image of God. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this was one of the key issues on everyone’s mind during this election season? I am not saying that it is always conservative or always liberal methodologies that most benefit the oppressed; I am just saying wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us who are followers of Jesus were deeply concerned that the best methods for helping the oppressed experience shalom (and thus the rest of us too) is the GOAL near the top of God’s and our agenda? Again, thanks for the reminder and challenge!

    • Thanks Ron. I agree. Either way we vote, this should be at the top of our radar.

  • Frank

    There is no one more marginalized than the unborn. They are truly the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger and the prisoner. Claiming to help the least of these without first helping the least of the least of these is disingenuous at best and extremely hypocritical at worse.

    There can be no shalom until we make protecting the unborn our priority.

    • Frank, I appreciate your passion and view. I don’t think the choice is an either/or. I don’t think people who do not favor abortion, but do not claim to have the divine knowledge of when personhood begins, and therefore do not want to dictate their religious views on others, are disingenuous. I think there is actually room to find new talking points between the two opposing viewpoints which could lead to better policies for the living and the unborn.

      • Frank

        The 6000+ unborn children killed each week in the US, only 3% due to rape, incest or the life of the mother, are unmoved and still dead while we discuss policy. Lets stop the killing first and then work on what we need to work on. I cannot imagine Jesus saying “yes let my children die while you figure out what I meant when I said to care or the poor.” A party that has abortion on demand in their platform is an anathema to the Christian faith.