By Greg Baker
The following opinion column was published in the Easter 2022 edition of the Des Moines Register.
As Christians around the world look to celebrate Easter, this year’s holiday brings great challenges for many. For two years the world has persevered through the Coronavirus pandemic; the already under-resourced mental health system is stretched even more; rising inflation is impacting the pocketbooks of families, especially our lower income neighbors; and now the world is watching as Russia continues to invade Ukraine, resulting in millions forced to flee their homes.
All of which is all the more reason our world needs Easter. It could not be coming at a better time. We need the hope that Easter brings, the hope of “a peace that surpasses human understanding,” known in the biblical, Hebrew language as shalom. Our world needs shalom.
The Bible teaches that our world did not begin with war, sickness, and death. It began in goodness, life, peace, harmony, and rest. God and creation were joined together in perfect harmony. Creation was in shalom.
Shalom is a beautiful Hebrew word that does not translate well to English. The English Bible hardly gives it justice, often translated merely as “peace.” But shalom is so much more. A better translation would be from the New Testament, where the writers referred to a “peace that surpasses human understanding” and a peace that can “guard our hearts in Christ Jesus.”
Shalom really encompasses three English words in one: wholeness, peace, and rest. In the Bible’s first book of Genesis, when God finished His work on the sixth day, He said that creation was good, meaning that it was complete or whole. Nothing needed to be added or subtracted from what He made.
And in that completeness, there was harmony and peace. To use other biblical phrases, the lion was able to lie down with the lamb, and God’s first people were naked and had no shame.
That is why God then rested on the seventh day – there was a good, whole, completeness in what He had done. And where there is peace, there is rest. All of these together are shalom. In the beginning there was shalom.
Yet when sin comes, it removes something that belongs or adds to what was already complete. It mars the “goodness” God designed, destroys harmony, and results in unrest.
Take Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for example, as a metaphor for sin. Ukraine is a sovereign nation, with its own government. When Russia invaded, it brought an army that did not belong there. This has caused a great unrest that has left thousands dead and millions fleeing. Ukraine does not have shalom.
Sin’s destruction of shalom extends deep into our lives as well. We see a loss of shalom in our bodies with sickness and disease and in our families with dysfunction and brokenness, and all of this overflows into our communities. Sin is a powerful, peace-breaking, restless, force that disrupts us all, and in its wake, we desperately yearn for shalom.
This need for shalom, for rest from sin and a restoration of wholeness … this is what Easter is all about. This is what Easter was for.
“For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus came to restore shalom, first by dealing with the root cause of what stole shalom: sin. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’s selfless death on the Cross, for which He paid the price for sin, so that we no longer owe it. Then on Easter Sunday, Jesus conquered the greatest enemy of all people – death – by rising from the grave. He later ascended into heaven promising His return, when He will make all things new. Creation will again be complete, bringing all things back into harmony, resulting in rest, restoring shalom.
Until then, God has sent His Spirit to dwell in those who believe in Him to be instruments of shalom. Christians are to be instruments of peace by sacrificially laying down their lives for the needs of others, whether that be a neighbor who is going through a hard season or a fellow human going through the horrors of war. Christians are to be ambassadors of peace in this world – and we can be through the power of Christ.
This Easter, if you have not yet put your hope in Christ, turn to the One who brings shalom. Turn from embracing sin, and trust instead in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And to those who have known the Prince of Peace, share this message of hope with others, as we anxiously wait for His return. Be an instrument of shalom.
Greg Baker is executive vice president and founding director of the Church Ambassador Network for The FAMiLY Leader.