What was Jesus’ first word to his friends when he came to them the evening of Easter? It was Shalom. This is a word that means more than just peace. Wholeness, healing, living a life that has integrity and consistency. Shalom speaks of God’s providence. It means that we are fruitful in our work and loving in our relationships. It means that we have our material needs met, and that we can care for the needs of others. Further, it means that we have this for eternity.
Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side, so that they would know it was him. He had risen from the dead and he wants us to know that there is shalom on the other side. The disciples and women had carried him into the dark, cold, gave on Friday. They saw him alive on Sunday. He showed them that there was a new pattern; life-death-and life again. He said one word, shalom.
Then he gave his disciples and his friends the command that they carry shalom out into the world. He sent them into world that only knew this pattern; life-suffering-death. He gave them good news. There is a new pattern; life-suffering-shalom-suffering-death-shalom. Shalom is the word. It blesses us. It blesses others. When we encounter people suffering in this world, we bring them shalom.
Jesus then gave to his disciples one additional meaning for shalom. Shalom is forgiveness. Shalom is the promise of healing in our relationships. Shalom is the promise of peace between the broken factions of our world. Shalom embraces the ISIS terrorist and the sister who stole money from you. Shalom embraces the boss who abuses his office and the child who is sent to school without lunch money. These are Jesus’ words:
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (John 20:23).
I do not believe that these words are just for the ordained. It’s not just priests and ministers that can offer forgiveness and the assurance of pardon. We each need to learn how to say shalom. We say it by love. We say it by forgiving the things and people that others consider to be unforgivable.
This is why Jesus talks about how sins can be retained if we don’t forgive. The ball is in our court. If someone needs shalom in this world and we don’t offer it, they hold onto their suffering, shame, and sin, until someone more Christian than us comes along and brings them shalom. Further, I believe that when we fail to help someone else find shalom we retain some of that loss as darkness on our own heart. We retain shame when we fail to bring forgiveness, hope, or healing to those whom it was in our power to give shalom.