Thursday, September 2, 2010

What is peace?

In the Old Testament Hebrew:
shâlôm
BDB Definition:

1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
1a) completeness (in number)
1b) safety, soundness (in body)
1c) welfare, health, prosperity
1d) peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment
1e) peace, friendship
1e1) of human relationships
1e2) with God especially in covenant relationship
1f) peace (from war)
1g) peace (as adjective)

In the New Testament Greek:
eirēnē
Thayer Definition:

1) a state of national tranquility
1a) exemption from the rage and havoc of war
2) peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
3) security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
4) of the Messiah’s peace
4a) the way that leads to peace (salvation)
5) of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
6) the blessed state of devout and upright men after death

From Merriam Webster:

1 : a state of tranquility or quiet: as a : freedom from civil disturbance b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
2 : freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3 : harmony in personal relations
4 a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
5 —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
— at peace : in a state of concord or tranquility

Some of these types of peace are promised by Jesus to believers, but all are not.  In fact, He promises us we will not have outside tranquility or quiet.  We will not be free from civil disturbances.  We will not be exempted from the rage and havoc of war.  Safety and soundness of body are not guaranteed.

(Joh 14:27)  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.


The world is incapable of giving us peace, just as it is inept at giving us wisdom.  We once had harmony with God and with the world, but that was blown with the original sin.  We can now be reconciled to God as people, but the rest of the world is still in sin and turmoil and not going to play along with our new found outlook on life.

So the peace of a Christian is not the absence of conflict, though we do desire that and know it would be a good thing.  The peace of a Christian is the security in knowing whatever happens, God’s in charge.  It’ll be okay in the grand scheme of things (meaning ETERNITY).

It would appear, like wisdom, there are a few types of peace.  The first is what we think of when we think of the world.  Peace is the absence of conflict.  The absence of conflict is great!  But is that really peace?  According to that definition, we had “peace” with Russia during the Cold War.  That wasn’t stressful in the least, was it?  Yay peace!

The other is the peace we feel inside, and this does not need worldly peace to survive.  Jesus promises us peace, His peace, but it is not the absence of conflict or trial nor does it require worldly peace to attain.

(Joh 16:33)  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


Writing on this verse, St Cyprian of Carthage offers "The Christian soldier, instructed by His precepts and warnings, trembles not at the battle, but is ready for the Crown."

This all sounds rather fine and logical and in line with belief in Christ, but how does one go about attaining this peace?  Suffering quietly, accepting trials and hardships with cheer, praying for people as they attempt to crush your spirit… THAT’S JUST CRAZY.  But wait, that’s the wisdom of the world talking, isn’t it?  We’re called to another type of wisdom.  One that does not make sense at all to the world:

1 Co 1:23  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Co 1:24  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Co 1:25  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1Co 1:26  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Co 1:27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;


Apparently we are not supposed to be all that sound of mine when dealing with others, with our problems, or with the world.  The Christian faith is not supposed to make a lot of sense to everyone else when lived out.  It will confound them.  It confuses others.

1Pe 4:1  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
1Pe 4:2  That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
1Pe 4:3  For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
1Pe 4:4  Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
1Pe 4:5  Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.


We’re not supposed to be normal.  So the “normal” reaction to stress, the “normal” reaction to troubles, the “normal” reactions to life aren’t necessarily to be our reactions.  We have a different standard.  We have a different wisdom.  Our “normal” is eternal and won’t change based on what MTV or psychologists tell us.  Our “normal” is commanded, and provided for by the Lord.

The world’s normal is more comfortable.  It seemingly prevents conflict.  It gives us more friends, more things to do, more places to go, and more faulty wisdom to follow.  This faulty wisdom leads to more conflict, fewer true friends, less to do, and even more faulty wisdom.  What a disaster!

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