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What Is Peace and Justice?

Peace

Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.—Psalm 34:14 NRSV

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom is rich in meaning. It is a comprehensive concept that means wholeness, peace, joy,
freedom, reconciliation, community, harmony of all creation–both physical and spiritual, righteousness, truth, justice, communication,
humanity.

Shalom is holistic and embraces all persons and all creation in reconciliation and harmony.  When Jesus taught about peace, he was using the word shalom in all its richness.  Jesus, when teaching the Beatitudes, really said, “Blessed are the shalom-makers.” The New Testament was written in Greek and eirene was the word used to translate shalom.  Perhaps the best English word to translate shalom is not “peace” but the word “Zion.”

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Justice

Justice and only justice, you shall pursue…—Deuteronomy 16:20 NRSV

One word for justice in Hebrew is  zedakah. The concept of justice in Judaism is different from Greek-Western views of this concept.  The emphasis is not on “retribution” (punishment) or “distribution” (fair shares for all).  It is more what human living should be like.  That is why the word zedakah is not only translated into English as justice but also as righteousness, which means living a just life personally.

Also “justice” (zedakah) is consistently paired with “mercy” or “grace” (hesed) in the Hebrew scriptures.  Jesus put them together in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.–Matthew 5:6-7 NRSV

In the church seal, the lamb can represent mercy and the lion justice.  The two work together for the blessing of children and bringing peace.

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