Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mt. 6:25-27
Anxiety, fear, worry. They’re a triple threat that can leave us paralyzed. Sometimes they latch onto our life’s journey because of the circumstances around us. Other times it’s inner conflict.
I grew up as a worrier and it’s taken years to find peace. My worry spilled out into anger and I punched more than one hole in a wall. My worry took the form of self-doubt and low self-esteem, affecting the relationships around me. I was jealous in my relationships and untrusting of others. Although I had a loving, stable family, I didn’t know inner peace.
God’s desire for us, our families, our community, and world, is that we would live in:
And all these things are brought together in one Hebrew word, shalom. This is my favorite word in scripture because it sums up God’s desire for the whole creation. But anxiety, fear, and worry rob us of shalom.
How can we even imagine living shalom in today’s world of conflict and division?
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…”
The word “therefore” points us back to what has come before. In this text, it’s the bulk of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, which begins in chapter 5 with the “Blessed are you’s”, the Beatitudes.
“Do not worry”, Jesus says, because you will be blessed when you are poor, when you lament, when you are meek, humble, kind and forgiving. You will be blessed when you strive for righteousness and justice, when you are compassionate and merciful, when your heart is pure, when you work for peace and reconciliation. Even when you are persecuted because of your work for justice, healing, and reconciliation in the world, you will be blessed.
All of these actions reflect shalom. Shalom is not a passive word. Shalom is active engagement with the people and world around us. To hammer this home, Jesus follows the Beatitudes by telling us to be salt and to be light in this world! Don’t just be in the world, make it better!
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…” This “therefore” also reflects back to the next part of Jesus’ message on the mount as he challenges us to reimagine how we live, and it’s a radical challenge indeed!
“You have heard that it was said, you shall not murder; BUT I SAY TO YOU, do not be angry without cause, do not insult, do not say to another, ‘You Fool!’, You idiot!” Instead, if there’s division and harm, actively work for healing and reconciliation!
“You have heard it said, ‘do not commit adultery’, but I tell you everyone who objectifies another has already committed adultery in his heart.”
“You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you, do not retaliate but instead bear injustice in such a way that you reveal it for what it is.”
“You have heard it said, ‘love your neighbor but hate your enemy’, but I tell you, love your enemies as well. Show them the same grace and love you’ve received from God, for this is the road to following in the way of God in the world.”
These are extremely difficult challenges, especially in today’s divisive political climate. Sometimes I just want to live in my anger, resentment, and fear. Shalom can be a lot of work!
- “But what if I think they really are a fool?”
- “How can I possibly love someone who supports such injustice in our world?”
- “I can’t believe that idiot voted for…” you fill in the blank.
- “I’m so upset with this person I can’t help but desire something awful to happen to them!”
The answer to all of these attitudes and more, refer back to the beatitudes. Your worry and anger will get you nowhere and will only increase division, anxiety, and fear. But blessed are you when you actively engage in the purposes of God, in shalom, for the whole creation… even for your enemies.
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…” This line also refers back to the part of Jesus’ sermon where he tells us how to pray – what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”:
- God in heaven – we begin by recognizing who’s in charge and who’s in control.
- Next, we pray for God’s purposes to come, to prevail here on earth, in our cities, communities, and homes.
- Give us today our daily bread. Jesus instructs us to trust God for our daily needs.
- Finally, and to me this is one of the scariest texts in scripture:
- “Forgive us our trespasses, our debts, our transgressions against others… IN THE SAME WAY THAT WE FORGIVE OTHERS.” Jesus continues: “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you refuse to forgive others, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.”
The way of shalom includes radical forgiveness.
It appears that actively pursuing the ways of God, the way of shalom, in all of life is pretty darn important to Jesus!
Join me tomorrow for part two of “Shalom in a World of Conflict” as we explore the rest of Jesus’ sermon and look at how others are actively living shalom in our world today.