Agents of Shalom

Perhaps the greatest question of life is: Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  Believers have answered this question in various ways, each way adding a new perspective or a slightly different way of thinking about this most important question.

The most well-known may be from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Question one asks: What is the chief end of man?  The answer is: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Notice that it does not say chief “ends” but chief “end.” Stating the question and answer this way, the writers of the catechism see enjoying God as part of what it means to glorify him. From the Westminster perspective, if you are not enjoying God, you must question whether you are really glorifying him since they are two sides of the one end.  Glorifying God is an enjoyment.

A second way that I have heard this expressed is that our primary purpose is to glorify God by creatively bringing order out of chaos. I like this perspective because it unites our purpose with the purpose of God in creation.  Sin introduces chaos into relationships – with God, with others, with our environment (our world and our work), and with ourselves.  So our purpose is to be creative as we bring order to relationships that are not what God originally intended. Every person is creative because each is made in the image of a God who is a creator.  Take as an example raising children.  Think of how many different roles you have to assume as a parent – doctor, lawyer, judge, cook, chauffeur, mentor, policeman/woman, counselor, manager, encourager, provider, protector, etc.  It takes great creativity to be a good parent and that creativity is directed toward bringing order out of the chaos of children with a sin nature. Your creativity becomes a means by which you glorify God.

Recently I heard another answer to the question which I found an interesting perspective.  Our purpose is to glorify God by being agents of shalom.  Most of you are probably familiar with the word “shalom” and know that it means “peace” and that it is used as a greeting when people meet or leave one another.  However, while “peace” is the denotative meaning, the word “shalom” has a great many connotations which cannot be captured by any one English word.  It carries the ideas of well-being, harmony, rest, and fullness. So when we become agents of shalom, we are seeking the well-being, harmony, rest and fullness – peace – of others.  It means that glorifying God involves going outside of ourselves to bring well-being and peace into the lives of others.  It introduces glory into the grind of daily life.

What do you think of this idea of being agents of shalom?  How do you live it out in the situations and relationships in your world?

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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