SALAAM-SHALOM is harmony with one’s being.

This is psycho-social transformation. Identity means being a person-in-community, not a consumer-in-the-marketplace.

The biblical understanding of the Self (Heb. nefesh) is so rich, far richer than the reductionist understanding of the neo-classical economic view of the self.  On one hand, self can be understood as soul, living being, life, and person.  On the other hand, self can also be understood as desire, appetite, emotion, and passion.  The former refers to the relational-spiritual aspects of our self that we share with other human beings and with God.  The latter refers to basic instincts of the self that we share with animals.  When the self is merely regarded as consumer-in-the-marketplace, we limit our “self-ness” to the basic animal instincts of our humanity.  We are then reduced to only one side of our “self-ness.”  Hence, we are alienated from our own self and we do not experience the shalom or wholeness of the self.  This alienated self is the easy target of commercial advertisements that lull and manipulate human beings to become mere consumer-in-the-marketplace.  Such advertisements usually appeal to the desire, appetite, emotion, and passion.

In shalom perspective, the harmonious Self—the wholeness of soul, life, personality, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion that characterize us as living beings—leads a person to live an Abundant Life.  Abundant Life is a term used in the Gospel of John (Jn. 10:10), which means living life in its fullness—spiritually, physically, socially, economically, and culturally—in the context of the community.  Abundant Life is not defined by what I have but by who I am in the context of relationships.  A person experiencing an abundant life regards her or his identity as a person-in-community and not as mere consumer-in-the-marketplace.

In contrast, globalism sees the Self as an isolated individual consumer who is addicted to commodity.  The meaning of one’s self is determined by how much goods and services one is able to consume in order to satisfy one’s needs and wants.  Relationships are mere means to satisfy one’s needs and wants.

Many churches today, especially those who are focused on “church-growth-at-all-cost,” are offering programs that would satisfy the needs and wants of church members and adherents who behave more like religious consumers rather than God worshippers.  Many church programs and activities are more focused on meeting the desire to experience a sort of “spiritual high.”   This is not the calling of the church.

The church is the shalom-community that is called to demonstrate that it is possible to live a life of wholeness.  The reduction of the self into a consumer-in-the-marketplace is not acceptable to the church.  The church is the pilot community called by God to show and tell that the biblical understanding of the whole self, as a person-in-community, is possible.  This possibility is experienced through the discipleship of the whole self into the cruciform life of Christ.  In Christ, a person can discover what it is to be a whole human being—a person who is nurtured intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually (Lk. 2:52).


Permanent link to this article:


We are sent by Mennonite Church Canada Witness in partnership with our international community.