Humanity’s foundational question of how to flourish and thrive was answered in the person of Jesus and the gospel of redemption. Woven throughout the narrative of Scripture is God’s desire for His children to flourish. He went to great lengths to protect the Israelites, provide for them and bring them to the promised land. When Jesus walked the earth, His ministry was filled with healing and restoring the people He came in contact with. He cared not only for their souls and spirits, but for their bodies as well. This is still true today.
Human flourishing points to God’s very nature and His plan for redemption. It speaks not only to eternal life, but to an abundant life as well. It is all-encompassing.
Human flourishing is “characterized by a holistic concern for the spiritual, moral, physical, economic, material, political, psychological, and social context necessary for human beings to live according to their design.” Anthony Bradley
Perhaps the concept that best describes what it means to flourish is shalom. Shalom is an Old Testament concept that signifies a number of things, including:
- Wholeness (Proverbs 3:2)
- Salvation (Isaiah 46:13)
- Peace (Psalm 72:3, Philippians 4:7)
- Righteousness (Isaiah 56:1)
- Reconciliation (Genesis 26:29)
- Well-being (Jeremiah 29:7)
- Health (Isaiah 57:19, Jeremiah 37:17)
- Justice (Psalm 72:4)
- Safety (Deuteronomy 33:28)
- Prosperity (Psalm 72:3)
Summed up, those things equate to right relationship with God, right relationship with others and right relationship with creation- the way things were intended to be. There are a few key things to observe
- Flourishing is for everyone: children, women and men; young and old; rich and poor (Galatians 3:28). God does not intend for just a select group to flourish, but He desires it for all people.
- Flourishing encompasses every aspect of our being: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. To be unhealthy in any aspect of our lives affects every other aspect of our lives, since we are created to be whole.
- It’s a continual process of becoming. We are living in the “already but yet”–a space and place of living out redemption with the recognition that full redemption and flourishing will not come to fruition until all things are made new when Christ returns.
Jesus not only preached these values but promoted them through the way He interacted with others. He showed us a model of the way things could be and the way they will be when all things are redeemed.
So, if we as Christians experience the personal shalom that Jesus gives, and if we’re also called to emulate the One we follow, what does it look like for us to participate in fostering shalom in our neighborhoods, our cities and beyond?
“Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3)
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:5-8)
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 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.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’ For the sake of my family and friends, I will say ‘Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.” (Psalm 122:6-9)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
We hope this site will encourage you to think deeply about what it looks like to “do no wrong or violence to the foreigner,” to “loose the chains of injustice,” to “value others above yourselves,” and to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city.” What does it look like for you to promote flourishing for everyone in your sphere of influence?