February 18, 2021
Shalom: The Way to Justice (Week 1)
Greeting others with peace in spite of divisions
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Matthew 5:9

We put into practice what we learn from Scripture by working for peace. According to Scripture, shalom implies freedom from fear, injustice, disorder and oppression — internally and externally. It demands more than just talking about peace. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called the people who work for or make peace “happy” or “blessed.” The word in New Testament Greek for blessed or happy is makarioi meaning “exceedingly happy or blessed.”

The Arabic word for peace is salam, which also means wholeness, safety, well-being and good intention, and it serves as a traditional greeting. In Arabic, the root word for peace-making is sulh. It denotes the importance of goodwill for building a long-lasting peace. Shalom implies harmonious relationships, the right way to live and work for peaceful coexistence.

The situation in Israel/Palestine is one of the most delicate and contentious for American Christians. Many support the state of Israel while being disturbed by the plight of the Palestinians. On May 14, 1948, Israel was officially founded, marking the first Jewish state in over 2,000 years. The majority of the people in the region were Palestinian Arabs who lived in what was then known as Palestine. The Arab-Israeli War was fought between Israel and five Arab countries (Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon). Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip as 700,000 Palestinian refugees left Jewish Israel and settled in the Gaza Strip, trapped between two countries, Egypt and Israel. As of 2018, most of the Palestinian inhabitants remaining are the original 1948 war refugees and their descendants, many still living in refugee camps. They face ongoing discrimination through laws, home evictions, cuts in electricity, prosecution in Israel’s military courts, and incarceration in Israel’s prisons. In spite of all this, Palestinians still use the greeting of “salam” to all they encounter.

An intimate part of discipleship is the call to be a peacemaker. A peacemaker seeks to transform the world by applying the teachings of God. It is one who has been transformed by their faith in Christ Jesus, a transformation of our attitude towards God and others. And it could easily begin by greeting others with the hope for peace to be in their lives.  

Pray
Lord God, make us granters of your peace. To be called a peacemaker is a gift from God to be of use in God’s kingdom. We pray for peace in the Holy Land and to serve as instruments of God’s peace around the world. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
About the authors of "The Way to Shalom: A Lenten Journey to Peace and Wholeness" from Presbyterians Today (PCUSA): The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., is joined by colleagues Catherine Gordon, associate for international issues; Christian Brooks, representative for domestic poverty issues; Sue Rheem, representative for the United Nations; and Ivy Lopedito, a mission specialist for the United Nations, in writing this year’s devotional. The Office of Public Witness is the denomination’s advocate and social witness in Washington, D.C. Learn more.
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