I have heard it said, “Every idea has a biography.” So let me briefly explain the origin of these Reflections on Shalom and the idea behind it.
When I was in grad school at the University of Maryland pursuing a Ph.D. in European and Russian history, I often thought about how my Christian faith related to my academic work. I knew God meant faith to be more than just a “private matter,” but I was unsure how to flush out the connections between my religious beliefs and what I was studying. My history profs were of no help and, in fact, their general approach was to ridicule religion and blame it for much of the violence and ignorance in European and Russian history.
After earning my degree, I spent four years in the State Department’s Historical Office, where I edited many volumes in the Foreign Relations of the United States series, particularly those focused on the early years of the Cold War. In an effort to offset these daytime hours chronicling conflict and war, I began an in-depth study of biblical peace, with the hope of gaining some insights that I could integrate into my work on foreign policy.
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I left the Department of State to become founding director of the American Studies Program for the Christian College Coalition in 1976. This semester program was specifically designed to work alongside students as they wrestled with public policy issues through eyes of faith; the study of biblical peace—shalom—was definitely part of the mix!
The event that focused my studies in a more concentrated fashion came in May 1983, when I served on the executive committee that organized a national conference on “The Church and Peacemaking in a Nuclear Age.” I was asked to edit the conference proceedings which were published in a book entitled Perspectives on Peacemaking: Biblical Options in the Nuclear Age (Regal Books, 1984).
Then, four years later, I wrote a 16-week daily devotional guide I titled Shalom: God’s Intention and Our Response, which I thoroughly enjoyed preparing because it combined the results of all of my study on this subject. The manuscript was never published, but now serves as the primary source for these “thought pieces.”
I was blessed to be born and raised in a Christian home and educated in quality Christian schools through college and what I learned and experience during those years impacted my adult life in many valuable ways. Still, my multi-year study of biblical peace opened up new and refreshing insights from the Bible that I had never seen before. It gave me a vision for how my faith could and should shape the way I evaluate all that goes on around me, and then how I should respond in thought and in action.
My desire is to see us all grow as people of faith in our understanding of how we can be peacemakers, shalom-makers, on a daily basis as we interact with the people in our lives and the world in which we live. As followers of Jesus, we have a calling to be “agents of hope,” builders of God’s Kingdom in our world which desperately needs reconcilers and healers. And, incidentally, those who practice peacemaking also receive peace—shalom: a deep sense of purpose and joy.