Shalom! Since ancient times this Hebrew word meaning “peace” has been the customary greeting of the Jews. Its use reflects the fundamental longing of every individual to enjoy wholeness, tranquility, and freedom from anxiety, things that are rarely to be found in our chaotic world. Of all the blessings to be sought, shalom (peace) was thought to be the most desirable.
The Greek word for “peace” is eirene from which we get the English word “serene.” Serenity, tranquility, and quiet seem to be apt descriptors of peace. Yet the idea of “freedom from distress,” while certainly consistent with the world’s idea of peace, is inadequate to describe the extent of the biblical concept. Just prior to His crucifixion Christ declared to His disciples (who were soon to be subjected to both despair and extraordinary persecution), “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
If, then, biblical peace is not freedom from adversity and does not derive from peaceful circumstances, what is it and where can it be found?
Indeed if peace were dependent on “peaceful” circumstances then finding peace for our life in this present world would be hopeless. A noted academic once analyzed the history of the world since 3600 B.C., searching for periods of peace. He found that in all that time there were only 292 years during which there were no known wars. In other words, during ninety-five percent of human history for which there are records, there has been significant conflict. In fact, this scholar determined there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. He also found that more than eight thousand peace treaties have been made—and broken.
If, then, biblical peace is not freedom from adversity and does not derive from peaceful circumstances, what is it and where can it be found? The answer to both questions is centered in Christ.
True biblical peace is the knowledge and the confidence that Christ is with us and that He is in control. The three young Jewish men of Daniel’s day were confident and at rest despite being thrown into the fiery furnace because Christ was with them. Likewise, in the midst of extreme emotional turmoil resulting from the desertion of his friends and the absence of his companions in a time of trial, Paul still enjoyed an unbreakable peace and tranquility of soul. He recalled that moment of divine presence with joy, stating, “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17).
Many years prior to Christ’s birth, Isaiah predicted of the Messiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
It follows, then, that true biblical peace is found in Christ.
As mentioned, the Greek word for peace is “eirene” which is derived from the verb eiro meaning “to bind together that which has been separated.” Man was separated from God by sin but through the Savior’s substitutionary death man and God have been reconciled. Paul states, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Simply put, those who have trusted in Christ have God’s peace because they have peace with God.
The day-to-day enjoyment of biblical peace, however, is not automatic. There are two main hindrances to biblical peace:
- focusing on our needs
- focusing on ourselves
When I was a young child my family went through a time of extremely difficult economic trials. One evening as I was preparing for bed, l overheard my father and mother discussing the situation in worried tones. I asked my father if everything would be alright. He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.” I slept peacefully that night. With a child’s simple faith, I knew that my father would watch over me. In like manner even in the most desperate of situations, we can trust that our heavenly Father will take care of us. We are His children and He will watch over us. We can have the peace of God.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. . . . (for) your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:22, 30–31)
A more insidious obstacle to biblical peace is found in our natural tendency to focus upon ourselves. We examine our lives and see the repeated failures and glaring faults and we think, why would God want to be with me? Why should I have His peace?
While it is true that God does discipline His errant child, His arms are always open to receive us in His infinite love. When the prodigal son returned home after wasting his father’s money in profligate living and a dissipate life, he expected only rejection. Instead his father, who had seen him afar off, fell upon him with kisses. He ordered for him to be clothed with the finest robe and he called for a celebration.
The essential point of the parable is that the father longs to be with the son. There is no impediment to enjoying intimate fellowship with God, our Father, and enjoying His peace other than the impediment that is self-imposed.
An old legend tells of a king whose life was burdened with the pressures and stress of governing his people. He decided to commission the two best artists in his realm to create a picture symbolizing peace. He would choose the better of the two paintings and hang it near his bed so that upon retiring to his room after a trying day he could reflect upon it and find solace.
A month later the two artists presented their works. The first painting was a lovely scene of a tranquil lake nestled in an alpine valley. There was not a ripple on the water nor the slightest hint of inclement weather. The sun shone brightly and the blue sky was dabbled with white clouds. It was indeed a peaceful scene.
The next painting was terrifying in its depiction. It too presented a mountain scene but in this painting the skies were dark and gloomy. Rain pummeled the ground and lightning cracked through the somber sky. A roaring torrent of water gushed through a gash in the mountains and tumbled violently through the valley. Yet in an obscure corner of this maelstrom there could be seen a small tree sheltered in a cleft of a large rock. And under the protection of the little tree’s branches there was a nest in which a tiny bird rested quietly, undisturbed by the turmoil around it. The painting didn’t portray a peaceful scene but it did wonderfully represent true peace.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As the bird was safe in its well-protected nest, even so, we are safe in our loving Savior. He is our peace.
Jim Haesemeyer – Renew in Knowledge Core Team Member
Jim Haesemeyer is an elder at FreeWay Bible Chapel at Lubbock, Texas. Jim has served on the mission field in Honduras for nearly thirty years.