Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
I love this passage. God is so much bigger than my puny plans and imagination. The Apostle Paul isn’t mincing words here. In the Greek he says God is able to do “abundantly [hyperekperissou]” “beyond [hyper]”, what we dare ask or even imagine. Talk about hypertext!
October’s theme is “Living into the radical shalom of God”, and this text is a great way to set the context. No, shalom is not explicitly mentioned in the passage, not even in the whole third chapter of Ephesians. What is mentioned in this chapter, summed up in the above quote, is the mystery of Christ, the love and grace of God available to everyone, and the fullness of God.
Shalom. We desperately need to embrace this word. In English we most often translate it as “peace”. But understanding shalom by that narrow and variously interpreted word would be like saying “God is able to do far less than you can ask or even imagine”. Shalom is huge! In fact, it’s such an expansive word, we wanted to devote an entire month to stories of shalom as it’s lived out in lives and communities around the world.
Here are just a handful of the ways shalom is expressed in scripture:
- Peace (to be at peace or to make peace)
- Making amends
- Living in harmony
My goal in this post is not to completely unpack this word (as if I could even begin to accomplish that) but to set the stage for posts coming up this month. My hope is that this month will be filled with stories of shalom – shalom unfolding through lives in communities around the world.
For some these stories may come in the form of peacemaking between warring factions or creating space for new relationships between groups who previously didn’t cross paths. For others is may be working at healing in our politically, ethnically, and economically divided world. Still for others it may look like caring for people by protecting all of God’s creation. It’s a really big word!
Shalom is at the heart of the cross. When Jesus prays that we all may be one, he’s praying shalom. When the Apostle Paul writes, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross,” (Colossians 1:19-20) he’s speaking words of shalom. When Jesus commands, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he’s calling us to live into the promise and hope of shalom.
Randy Woodley, in his book Shalom and the Community of Creation, writes “The Creator has ingeniously designed a world in which shalom is the foundational stuff that God uses to create proper order to the world. Put simply, shalom is originally located in God. Shalom is what we are to utilize each day as God lives through us.” (p.14)
The African term ubuntu (variations in many languages) basically means “our humanity is wrapped up together”. This is a wonderful term that I believe also captures the spirit of shalom. Shalom does not happen in a vacuum. We are created in relationship, for relationship, with God, with one another, and with the whole creation. Everything is connected, even as all things are being reconciled to God through Jesus.
I invite you to join us on a month-long journey of shalom. Read, comment, and share the stories as they unfold on our Godspace Community Blog. Write your own shalom story and share it with the world; we like having new writers join our community. And then, as the Spirit leads, go into the world to live and speak shalom wherever it’s missing. In doing so you will discover shalom spilling out into your life and that God can, indeed, do much more than we could ever possibly ask or imagine.