Last night, I continued on with our study on Jesus and the In-Breaking Kingdom of God. I was really excited to talk about the concept of Shalom, or peace, as it is related to the reign and rule of God in Christ. Many of us think of peace as a pleasant emotion or a state of stress free living. We think of peace in an individualistic or internal sense. Or, we think of it as the absence of conflict. But, the Biblical idea of Shalom is much more holistic than that. The New Bible Dictionary says,
Basically, the Old Testament word for peace, shalom, means ‘completeness’, ‘soundness’, ‘well-being’. It is used when one asks of or prays for the welfare of another, when one is in harmony or concord with another, when one seeks the good of a city or country. It may mean material prosperity or physical safety. But also it may mean spiritual well-being. Such peace is the associate of righteousness and truth, but not of wickedness.
Because of the world’s chaos through man’s sin, and because peace comes only as God’s gift, the messianic hope was an age of peace (Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:1-7), or of the advent of the Prince of Peace. The New Testament shows the fulfillment of this hope. In Christ peace has come (Luke 2:14, 29-32). By Him it is bestowed (Mark 5:30-34; John 20:19-22; 26), and His disciples are its messengers (Luke 10:5-12; Acts 10:36).
In classical Greek eirene had a primarily negative force; but by way of the LXX (Septuagint), the word in the New Testament has the full content of the Old Testament Shalom, and nearly always carries a spiritual connotation. The breadth of its meaning is especially apparent from its linking with such key words as grace, life, righteousness, and from its use in benedictions such as 1 Thess. 5:23 and Hebrews 13:20-21.
For sinful man there must first be peace with God, the removal of sin’s enmity through the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20). Then inward peace can follow (Phil. 4:7), unhindered by the world’s strife (John 14:27; 16:33). Peace between man and man is part of the purpose for which Christ died (Eph. 2:11-18) and of the Spirit’s work (Gal. 5:22); but man must also be active to promote it (Eph. 4:3; Hebrews 12:14), not merely as the elimination of discord, but as the harmony and true functioning of the Body of Christ (Romans 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:33).
If this definition is true, then we have a shortsighted view of what “peace” means. Like so many other things in the spiritual life, we have personalized it and made it all about us. It has become all about our current state of mind. But, the Biblical idea of peace, or shalom, is consistent with the idea of the establishment of the reign and rule of God through the coming of the Kingdom. We are to come under God’s authority where He brings peace with God, peace in our lives and families, and peace between one another.
The Hebrew people understood that when Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that it meant that the messianic reign had come. This was the time where God would set right all that had gone wrong. When Jesus said that He gave us peace, it meant that He gave us soundness, completeness, wholeness. All of this was to be found in Him. Peace, or shalom, is to come upon our homes. It is to come upon our churches and our communities. It is to transform our nation. We are to live complete, sound, and whole. It can all be found in Christ. Jesus Himself is our peace. He tears down the dividing walls between warring factions and groups that are at enmity. He brings them into prosperous, healthy, and mutually beneficial relationships. Not only do we gain peace with God, but we also gain peace within ourselves and between one another. The gospel is the gospel of peace. We are messengers of peace and we are to be peacemakers in the lives of others. The peace that we experience and share is not just a nice feeling or a lack of conflict, but it is all that derives from our union with God as He gives us healthy relationships with our families and through community with one another.
To each of you today, I say, Shalom. Peace be with you.
When we stop reducing the wonders of the gospel to a private devotion life with Jesus, we begin to understand what He really has in store for us. Jesus puts His life in us and that life transforms the world. He gives us peace that is different from what the world gives. It lasts, spreads, and transforms.