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How Biblical Shalom Resembles a Beautiful Fabric

In a sermon entitled The Beauty of Biblical Justice, pastor Timothy Keller defines the biblical concept of shalom as universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. Keller states, "God created the world to be a fabric, for everything to be woven together and interdependent."

Keller illustrates his point with the following picture of biblical shalom: "If I threw a thousand threads onto the table, they wouldn't be a fabric. They'd just be threads lying on top of each other. Threads become a fabric when each one has been woven over, under, around, and through every other one. The more interdependent they are, the more beautiful they are. The more interwoven they are, the stronger and warmer they are. God made the world with billions of entities, but he didn't make them to be an aggregation. Rather, he made them to be in a beautiful, harmonious, knitted, webbed, interdependent relationship with one another."

Then he offers a concrete example for the need to practice the Bible's call to shalom. In large cities around the world, children are growing up as functional illiterates—largely due to school and family situations. By the time they become teenagers, they can't read or write. According to Keller, at that point, they're often locked into poverty for the rest of their lives. Some people pin this problem on unjust social structures; others blame the breakdown of the family. But nobody says it's the kids' fault.

So Keller concludes, "Nobody says that 7-year-olds need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And yet, a child born into my family has a 300 to 400 times greater chance for economic or social flourishing than the kids in those neighborhoods. That's just one example of the way in which the fabric of the world—the shalom of this world—has been broken … . It's not enough to do individual charity; you have to address [larger social issues]."

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