Justice and Peace: The Kiss

“Shalom” in Hebrew
During my first day at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan), I remember stopping in a restroom, meeting a young guy who said, “Hello,” and when he found out I was new to the campus, welcomed me.  I found out later that this young man was Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff, a professor of philosophy at the college – not a student, as I supposed since he looked so young.  Wolterstorff taught for years at Calvin College and later moved to a former Christian college, Yale University, but I continue to learn from him through his books and lectures.  He has been an important mentor and some of what you read in this Shalom blog are based on insights I gained from him.
Of his many books, Until Peace and Justice Embrace has been one I have read through repeatedly and upon which I built my own “Shalom lectures” while teaching at the American Studies Program on Capitol Hill and the Russian-American Institute in Moscow.  In a short chapter, “For Justice in Shalom,” Wolterstorff writes about the need for a comprehensive vision that will guide our lives and keep us from losing our way.
With this brief introduction, he offers “the vision of shalom – peace – first articulated in the Old Testament poetic and prophetic literature but then coming to expression in the New Testament as well.”  He then goes on to explain that shalom is intertwined with justice and that there is no shalom without justice, but shalom goes beyond justice.
It was Wolterstorff who first introduced me to the four dimensions of shalom when he wrote, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his or her relationships: with God, with self, with fellows, with nature.”  He emphasized that shalom is not merely the absence of hostility, but “at its highest is the enjoyment in one’s relationships.”
The title of Wolterstorff’s book is taken from Psalm 85:10: “.  .  . justice and peace have kissed (or embraced)” – what a magnificent depiction of the close link between  justice and peace!  While I am not a bumper sticker guy, I do like the bumper stickers that read “No Justice, No Peace; Know Justice, Know Peace.”
In the conclusion of this chapter, Wolterstorff presents a challenge that profoundly impacted my life: “Can the conclusion be avoided that not only is shalom God’s cause in the world but that all who believe in Jesus will, along with him, engage the works of shalomShalom is both God’s cause in the world and our human calling.”
So What?
  • Who have been mentors in your life?  Have you thanked them?
  • What have you learned about shalom from this blog that has helped you to see it as a part of your “human calling”?
  • Can you see how Biblical shalom involves enjoying relationships and flourishing in your work and in your community?  Living a life of shalom results in being more fully human, according to God’s design.  It’s a good reason for sharing this truth with others.