If you’re like me, you’ve probably been brought up hearing a very limited view of what Christianity is all about. Many of us have been taught what USC philosophy professor Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management.” It goes something like this: “Jesus came to save me from my sins so that I won’t go to hell when I die.”
Presented in this narrow fashion, Christianity is little more than eternal “fire insurance” which leaves most of life untouched by God’s love and redemption. We believe in Jesus so that we can be forgiven and so that we can go to Heaven after we die. Now, forgiveness is an amazing thing. So is Heaven. But the Good News of Jesus, and of Christmas, is about so much more. It is “bigger and better” than what you’ve probably been told.
Jesus came to save, redeem, and transform every aspect of our lives and the world.
His salvation extends over all of God’s good creation which has become twisted and corrupted as a consequence of sin. This includes everything messed up and broken in our world--whether personal, familial, social, or global. It includes our personal emotional brokenness and dysfunctional family relationships, poverty, slavery, human trafficking, oppression of immigrants, warfare, lack of clean water, AIDS, gang violence, and lack of educational opportunity. No aspect of life is untouched by the love and redemption of Jesus!
This is what we celebrate this Christmas and every Christmas. As Christine and Tom Sine state in their wonderful book, Living on Purpose: “Jesus Christ is interested in seeing the gospel transform every part of our lives and every dimension of God’s world.”
This comprehensive nature of Christianity is summed up in something called “shalom.” The word “shalom” is used more than 350 times in the Bible, and it refers to “God’s desire to restore all things to the wholeness and harmony of relationship in which they were originally created” (Christine and Tom Sine, Living on Purpose). “[Shalom] covers a wide range of meaning: wholeness, without injury, undivided, well-being, a satisfactory condition, bodily health…If a person or a nation has [shalom], no lack exists in any direction, whether personal or national” (Arthur Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom).
“Shalom” is the revolutionary hope of Christmas. Jesus is the Prince of Shalom. This is what the world has celebrated for 2,000 years in commemoration of Jesus’ birth, and this is what we celebrate this Christmas. In the famous words of Isaiah:
``The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light…
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with…
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
he gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness [Shalom]
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
Isaiah 9: 2-7 (The Message).
May you, and all who are dear to you, know the amazing Shalom of Jesus this
Christmas. This is my sincerest prayer for you, and this is what this blog is all about.
With much love,