striving for shalom….

In this senior seminar that I talked about in my last post we’ve been asking the question of What is the Gospel? And last week our presenter was Soong-Chan Rah, who is one of my favorite professors. As we were talking about the question of what is the gospel, Soong-Chan brought up this idea that when we are asked to articulate the gospel, the majority of people will start with the fall rather than creation. We start our gospel sentences with the idea that we are sinners who have fallen short and are in need of the saving grace of Christ. The chaos of the world causes us to look forward to the Shalom – the wholeness and peace – of the eschaton.
Yes, and…
Then, Soong-Chan talked about a friend of his in the Native American community who talks about the idea of starting our gospel story with creation rather than the fall. He told this story about how in a community that is full of struggle and strife, they tend to start the gospel with looking back at the Shalom of creation rather than looking forward to the Shalom of the restoration in the second coming of Christ.
This idea is fascinating to me. I think about how so much of the time we articulate the gospel as saving faith in Christ that points to a time when struggles and pain will be no more. We can have faith in sufferings because we look forward to a time when it will be better. For the most part, this is easy because we can always look back to a time when we weren’t struggling personally. But what about communities that do not have that story? That struggles have characterized their whole life.
In the biblical story we have the ability to look back to the relationship that Adam and Eve had with God in the garden – this idea of complete Shalom – a wholeness that comes only from a relationship with God. Then the fall, we are distanced from God by sin and now we are striving to get back to Shalom. We have a picture of this in our biblical story. We know what Shalom looks like and now all we can do is follow and strive to get back to that Shalom.
Personally, when I came to Christ it was more powerful for me to look back to creation than to look forward to the eschaton. The life I was living was one of constant struggle. I lived in a broken home with an alcoholic father who looked as if he would never get clean. The most valid argument I heard for faith in Christ is that the life I was living was not the one intended for me by God. That I was created for this Shalom relationship with God.
I know that’s not everyone’s story but I think we may need to rethink our audiences when we talk about the gospel. Maybe we need to bring creation back into it.d

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