Peace…More than the Absence of Violence
Our world today is in desperate need of peace. We live in a world of conflict, a world of wars, and a world where the rich and powerful often rule and the poor and powerless are often taken advantage of. You don’t have to look very far to find evidence that our world is in great turmoil and in great need for peace. And while we may think that all of these awful tragedies are signs of the end of time, we need to keep in mind that the world today is not very different from the world of centuries past.
Scientists and historians studied the history of warfare in our world and found that in the past 5,600 years there have been only 292 years of peace! During these 5,600 years of history there have been over 14,000 wars, large and small, in which 3.6 billion people have been killed.
Wars and conflicts are nothing new to our world. And neither are calls for peace. But it is important to recognize that when the Bible talks about peace, it is often not talking about the kind of peace many people today want: peace as the absence of conflict or wars. Instead, when the Bible talks about peace, it is referring to something much deeper and more significant than just a lack of conflict or warfare. Peace is not the absence of anything, it is the filling of our hearts with God’s very presence.
Shalom, the Hebrew word we translate as peace, refers to a quality of life in which we are living under the blessings of God. It is nearly synonymous with salvation. Shalom is not simply a life in which there is no conflict with others, but it is a life where the peace of God reigns – in every part. It means that your relationships, your work, your home, your emotions, your body, that they are all being blessed by the presence of God. Back in Jesus’day, all through our day today, the common greeting between Israelites is “shalom.” And in this greeting they are actually blessing the other person – they are saying “I pray that you are enjoying the very presence and blessing of God in every part of your life.”
So how much peace do you have in your life today?
Is your mind at peace? Is your mind controlled by the Spirit of God, or is your mind filled with a jumble of unsolved grievances, unfinished plans, and frustrating disappointments? Right now, can you say that your mind is at peace?
How about your feelings? Feelings do matter, you know. How we feel affects how we live and how we relate to one another. Are you free today from smoldering anger, nagging fears, frustration, anxiety?
How about your relationships? Are you at peace with the people you encounter every day? Do your relationships model the life of grace, or are you in constant conflict with others? Do you let others rob you of peace? Do you rob others of peace?
How about your body? Are you strained by stress, agitation, nervousness? Or are you free from tension, tight muscles, high blood pressure? It is amazing how closely related our minds and feelings are with our bodies. My body tells me when I have a large amount of stress in my life – I get canker sores in my mouth. Now, interestingly, they come about two weeks after the stress, often times when the stress has passed. So when I get canker sores I sometimes have to look back in my calendar and see what was going on two weeks ago. And it is amazing to look back and suddenly realize two weeks later that that situation, or that meeting, or that deadline, or whatever event it was, really took a bigger toll on my mind and body than I realized.
How about your soul? Is your soul at peace today, knowing that not only have your sins been forgiven, but doyou at the very core of your being, know the depths of love your Heavenly Father has for you? Are your prayers a fast-paced reciting of your needs, or are they joyful conversations with your Savior and Friend about his goodness and majesty and power?
When we talk about peace, from a Christian perspective, this is what we are talking about – your mind, your feelings, your relationships, your body, and your soul all being permeated by the presence and grace and power of God. Is that the reality that you are living in today, or is something stealing away your peace?
Here is one of the most important keys to finding peace: Peace can only be experienced when it is accepted. How do we, in our war-torn, hectic, conflicted world accept God’s peace into our lives? I believe it starts where Paul says it starts, in our hearts and our minds.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
To know real peace in this world, we must give our hearts to God. Not simply asking him for his forgiveness for our sins, though that is extremely important. But also asking him to heal the lingering effects of sin in our lives. This entails not just asking Christ to be our Savior, but to be our Lord as well, as we surrender to him every part of our life.
That can be a very scary thing to do, because when we surrender ourselves wholly to Christ, he will call us to rid our lives of those things that are keeping us from knowing his perfect peace. And we have become pretty comfortable with some of those things. But we cannot know his true peace if we are keeping walls around different parts of our lives to keep God out. We have to surrender to him our relationships, our jobs, our families, our opinions, our attitudes, our biases.
Have you done that? Have you experienced the incredible peace that comes from giving up your life entirely and inviting Christ to just take over? It’s scary, but you know what? It is also the most liberating and joyful thing you can do. Pray right now, and ask God to both grant you a deeper experience of his peace, and to also reveal to you what in your life is keeping you from constantly living in Christ’s peace.