Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Growing up, the vogue item to give up for Lent seemed to be chocolate. Nowadays, it’s social media. But worthy as those endeavours may be, it’s important to remember what’s happening spiritually in this season – a reordering of priorities that lays down vain ambition and focuses on what life with Jesus means.
Jeremiah, writing in the midst of national turmoil, is inviting the exiles into a little priority reordering of their own. Invading Babylonian forces had already deported a number of Jews, and would go on to remove far more from their homeland. For Judah, this was the worst-case scenario. Game over.
But, as Jeremiah assures the exiles, it’s not the end of the story.
In verse 7, he uses the word ‘shalom’. Though this is translated as ‘peace and prosperity’, the Hebrew concept means a lot more than the mere absence of violence. It speaks of completeness, wholeness, welfare – the opportunity for everyone and everything to flourish.
God instructs this group of people – scattered, despondent, at the end of themselves – to work for the shalom of the new places they are in, places where they are strangers, even hostages.
This demand holds fresh meaning for us today, too.
In any number of the places we find ourselves during the week, we might feel like strangers in a strange land, but we have a clear mission there. Do we hide away and protect ourselves at all costs?
No. Rather, we take up God’s invitation to seek the flourishing of those around us – regardless of what they think about followers of Jesus.
As the church in 2024, we can find purpose in the same sort of everyday places that the exiles found themselves 3,000 years ago – in all of our offices, schools, universities, building sites, hospitals, friendship groups, family relationships, streets, tennis clubs, and WhatsApp chats.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll work through Jeremiah 29, thinking about how to live lives full of purpose, wherever God has carried us. After that, you can also join our Lent devotional journey, unpacking the same idea over 40 days.
This Lent, we encourage you to give up your tendency to take the easy option in your spaces and places. Not choosing to stay quiet when someone is publicly shamed in a meeting, giving a frustrating neighbour the cold shoulder, or snapping at a family member who is driving you up the wall, but rather discovering what it means to be an ‘agent of shalom’ right now, right where you are – just like the exiles in Jeremiah.
Church Associate, LICC
In what way can you be an agent of shalom (working for peace, wholeness, and an opportunity for all to flourish) today, in the place you find yourself? Join the conversation below.