Three Hebrew Words

Shalom

Shalom is a rich word in the Hebrew scriptures. encompassing “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight,” according to Christian Theologian, Cornelius Plantinga Jr.   Shalom is often thought of as the desire of God for all his creation; characterizing both Eden in Genesis, and in the new creation in Revelation.

Chata

Contrasted with shalom, is the Hebrew word for sin.  In Hebrew, the word sin (Chata) literally means “missing the mark; or getting it wrong.”  But more broadly, Plantinga explains sin as any human action that vandalizes shalom; causing harm; breaking relationships; resisting, twisting or distorting something good, doing damage in word or deed.

Chata damages Shalom when…

  • We sin against another person.
    Gossip…  abuse…  neglect…  or even by trying to do good in the wrong way.
  • We sin against creation.
    polluting…   exploiting…   neglecting our responsibilities as stewards and caretakers.
  • We sin against ourselves.
    Accepting lies that fuel either pride or depression.  Losing our freedom to addictions and the pursuit of false hopes.
  • We sin against our Creator.
    denying God’s existence and authority; putting our trust for the future elsewhere, and sinning against others, ourselves, or the creation.

Hesed

The path of restoration and healing relies heavily on hesed; or the practice of covenant love.  It is a love commitment that binds relationships together for the long term, so that no matter what happens the relationship holds together.    In the Bible, God forms several covenants with his people to rescue them, teach them, heal them, and restore Shalom.  By practicing hesed,God shows his commitment to his children; a stubborn love that never gives up.

So too, God wants his children to practice covenant love with each other so that our families and friendships are strong, and our communities are warm and vibrant, where everyone belongs and is cared for.  In relationships built on Hesed, we find ourselves in a circle of secure and committed love where we can put broken pieces back together, and find shalom.

As we work to care for each other in our city, may we too seek God’s vision of Shalom for each other, reject actions that knowingly or unknowingly cause harm to another, and couch every work of hope and healing in the context of loving relationship.


By Pastor Mike Van Boom, Christian Reformed Church

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