In the prophet Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon, God instructs his people, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) The word translated “welfare” (in other translations, “peace”) is the Hebrew word shalom. Shalom is one of those words every culture has that is difficult to translate into English. It means peace, but more than peace as the absence of conflict, it means wholeness, wellbeing, prosperity, happiness. It’s a comprehensive word that describes the way the world used to be before sin marred it – when man lived in harmony with God, with each other and with nature. It’s the way the world should be and one day will be.
What’s fascinating is that God instructs his people to seek the shalom of a pagan city, Babylon. A city responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, for unspeakable tragedy and brutality of conquest – this most godless of all cities, God instructs his people to strive with all their might to establish shalom. Here and now. This directive has wide-ranging implications for the church today. We as the church are to seek the shalom of the cities we live in. We are not just passing by, exploiting its resources, removed from the affairs of the community. We are for the city. We seek to be good neighbors and work towards the wholeness and blossoming of our communities. And in this, we anticipate the fullness of the New Creation to come, when the world will be made anew and everything broken made whole.
And so, this past Saturday, about 20 IGC members volunteered at Marshall Elementary School, gardening and generally sprucing up the school grounds, and working for the shalom of Castro Valley. (See picture above.) This will be a seasonal project for our Mercy Ministry, among other endeavors.