“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
In yesterday’s post, I explored this passage’s connection back to Jesus’ earlier comments in the Sermon on the Mount from the Beatitudes through the Lord’s Prayer. After his prayer, Jesus goes on to challenge us about what we value. Where is our treasure? Are we amassing wealth and power in this world while ignoring the broad purposes of God? Are we constantly pursuing our own self-interests and enjoyment while ignoring the needs around us? Do we fill our lives with distractions, pushing aside the pain, anger, and brokenness of the world?
We often hear the phrase “follow the money” when it comes to uncovering the hypocrisy of others, but how often do we do this in our own lives?
And then, as if to hammer this point home, Jesus makes it clear, “You cannot serve two masters”.
OK, right about now I’m not feeling so comfortable! Is Jesus laying some kind of guilt-trip on us? NO, I don’t believe it!
- I believe Jesus is attempting to expose how easily we settle for so much less than God desires for us and for the whole creation.
- I believe Jesus is trying to get us unstuck from our insecurities so that we can live fully into the purposes of shalom in the world.
- I believe Jesus is showing us a better way, a way that leads to peace, harmony, contentment, and joy.
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…”
We’ve reached the point in Jesus’ message where our key passage appears. Do not worry about your life. See how God cares for creation? Are you not more valuable in the eyes of God? God will care for you if you seek FIRST God’s kingdom purposes and God’s righteousness and justice in the world.
King Solomon amassed more possessions and power than we can even dream of having, yet he never found contentment. In fact, despite all his wealth and power, Solomon turned away from God. “You cannot serve both God and wealth.”
Faithfulness to the way of Jesus means we must resist knee-jerk reactions to injustice and other things that offend. The core of all our responses should be shalom. The radical nature and call of Jesus is a revolution that’s so counter-cultural it shocks and surprises, opening doors to dialogue and healing.
The other day when I was parking at the hospital I noticed a car had parked right on top of one of the parking lines. Then I noticed that nearly ten cars after that had to park on the lines just to have room to park. Our actions, for good and for bad, don’t just affect us; they ripple out, impacting the world around us.
“Are you serious? No way am I going to forgive that idiot!”
Often our first reaction to injustice and division is to inadvertently sow more division and cultivate more injustice. But the way of Jesus invites us to a better response. To return love for hate, forgiveness for persecution, generosity for greed.
It’s a way of healing, wholeness, and peace, and many are choosing this way to be their pattern of life.
What does shalom look like in our world today? It is a radical commitment to the kingdom purposes of God in our world.
- It looks like an Amish community in Pennsylvania whose children were slaughtered by a gunman yet chose not only to forgive but to adopt the gunman’s family as their own, demonstrating the radical love of God in the most practical terms.
- It looks like MJ Sharp, a worker for peace and reconciliation in the Democratic Republic of Congo who, along with his Swedish co-worker and Congolese translator, were murdered this past March. MJ’s father noted that if we really believe in loving our enemies, “we should be producing hundreds of MJs.” Not necessarily to do what he did, he said, but “we are all called to reach out to those who are hopeless.”
- Shalom looks like my friends Dan and Joji Pantoja, working for reconciliation and peace between Christians, Muslims, tribal peoples, and the Philippine government in Mindanao and beyond.
- Shalom looks like you and me coming alongside our Hispanic neighbors who live in fear of deportation and separated families.
- It looks like you and me embracing our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness, loving them as equals created in the image of God rather than projects to be completed or problems to be fixed.
- It looks like you and me loving our neighbors whatever their race, religion, sexual orientation, social status, or who they voted for or currently support.
- Shalom looks like you and me working for environmental, social and economic justice right here, right where we are.
“Do not worry or be anxious”, Jesus says. Worry adds nothing to your life and will only paralyze you, keeping you from living in the way God created you to live.
Worry is anti-shalom. Instead, with humility and courage, engage in God’s kingdom work in the world. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God. Listen to the words of Jesus and become shalom-bearers in the world.
Yes, there is much to be concerned about in our world today.
- Where there is division, bring healing and reconciliation.
- Where there is hatred, bring love and understanding.
- Where there is fear, bring hope and joy.
We are the people of God called to a different way of living in the world. We are called to live shalom. We are called to be shalom.
As we enter this week may our hearts and minds be attentive:
- When you sense anger rising within, ask yourself, “Where does this anger come from, and how can it be transformed into shalom?”
- When you sense fear and anxiety creeping into your life, ask yourself, “What am I fearful of? Is it justified? How might God want to transform that fear and anxiety into shalom?
- When you see injustice in your community and world, ask God, “How would you like to use me, right now, as an instrument of peace, of justice, of healing and reconciliation?”
Living shalom in a world of conflict is really the heart of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. It is Jesus’ radical call to discipleship – to being the people of God in the world. It seems counterintuitive that Jesus would sum up his message with the words, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life… do not be anxious and afraid.”
Yet somehow, somewhere in the midst of seeking first the kingdom purposes of God in the world, we discover a deep sense of peace and contentment, of shalom. And that shalom begins to flow naturally from our lives to those around us.
May it be so for you, for me, and for our world.
[…] I’ve been doing a lot of pondering on how to process all of the craziness of the last few days. Andy Wade has two great posts on living into Shalom in the midst of conflict that if you have not read, I highly recommend! Part 1 and Part 2 […]