This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”Jeremiah 29:4-7
“No justice, no peace.” These were the four words written on the sign I was holding at a prayer vigil in 2020. They were the words we cried together as a public liturgy of lament for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, whose lives were unjustly taken from this world. These four words were not a threat of violence, brutality, or destruction. They were a prophetic reminder to the world that when there is no justice, we will never experience true peace. Without justice, there is no shalom.
Shalom means so much more than we often give it credit for. Shalom is not a cheap kind of peace. It isn’t a glossing over of hurt or a cease-fire. Shalom is not the kind of peace that can be achieved by maintaining the status quo. Shalom is that holistic sense of peace found when God created the universe and said that it was “very good.” It is also the peace found when we as sinners are made whole by the grace of Jesus. When God restores all things in the new heaven and the new earth, shalom will be in the air we breathe and in the ground beneath our feet. Yet, in the broken world we live in, shalom does not exist by default. It must be sought.
The author of Jeremiah reminds us of this when he proclaims this word of the Lord to a people who are in exile. He encourages God’s people in the midst of the injustices to seek the peace, the shalom, of the city. This isn’t a call to simply make nice with their captors and pretend like everything is sunshine and rainbows. No, God called God’s people to seek shalom, to reach for and create a society of flourishing and justice for all people. This is peacemaking that speaks truth to power, laying bare the situation of those who are suffering and saying, “No justice, no peace.”
As God’s people on earth today, God also calls us to seek shalom in the world today, to strive for and create a flourishing society. Opportunities to join in this work are all around us. They are there in our elections, our local communities, our church, our workplace, and even our families. May we, therefore, seek shalom in the midst of a broken and hurting world, striving for compassion and justice, so that one day there may be true peace.
- Can you think of a time when you experienced God’s shalom in your life? Reflect on what that felt and looked like.
- Pray and ask God to show you how you might seek shalom in your community.