Biblical peace is, in some ways, a strange concept. Or, perhaps, a more expansive one that we think. Peace is a bit like McElligot’s Pool; it contains depths far greater than we see on the surface.
For us, the peace we often seek is synonymous with the word that often follows it: quiet. An absence. An absence of sound and movement and conflict, of emotion and turmoil and strife.
The Biblical view of peace, however, is far greater than that. Peace is not absence. Peace is more.
“In the Greek…” he says, pushing his glasses up on his nose and ignoring the rolling eyes.
In the Greek, the language of the New Testament and likely of the Scriptures that Jesus and Paul both read, the word is eiréné, from eiró, meaning to fit or join together, to make one. Thus, peace is a state in which things are made whole, made one. Peace is not simply an absence; it is something new.
The Hebrew is more familiar but also the same: shalom. It too means wholeness; it suggests something broken repaired.
Perhaps the ancients understood what we need better than we do. It’s not just that we need things to go away—we need something to replace it.
In our nation, and indeed worldwide, we are experiencing great cultural strife. People say it’s unprecedented, but I think that is just our interconnectivity giving everyone a chance to yell about things. We have been here before. The thing we must learn, the thing we have to understand, is that peace does not come when the other side shuts up. It does not come when the people who don’t like us, or vice versa we don’t like, go away. It doesn’t come when the storm passes. It doesn’t come in silence. It doesn’t come in the defeat of an enemy.
All of that is just quiet.
Quiet is not peace.
Peace is the forge. Peace is the sewing. Peace is glue and nails and scaffolding. Peace is the hard part.
Peace is what comes after the work is done. When effort is made to fix and repair and restore. When growth restarts, and true wholeness is achieved.
The fourth Sunday of Advent is Peace. The day when we accept what is given and find that we are made whole.
Peace is a complicated thing, but it is what we are called to be.
The People of the Prince of Peace.
Peacemakers, the children of God.
Who is willing to put in the effort?