Peace between you and your family. Between the people in your community. Peace between nations, between whole peoples.
Peace from a hard day’s work, from a difficult time of strife for you, or those around you. It is something that we all strive for in our everyday lives.
We all hope to find that sense of stillness, that ability to let a tidal wave of emotion come over us, and to still stay planted.
The ability to live in harmony with yourself, your family, your family, and the world around you. To be able to deal with the things that bring you pain, and maybe, through that, be able to bring peace to others.
It’s a noble goal, to want to try and rise above the day-to-day struggles of living in a busier and more chaotic world. To resist those awful thoughts that might clog up your mind with bitterness against others, or the self-loathing you feel for yourself.
But, as the teachings that have been left for us by God, Jesus Christ, and his prophets, can tell us, there’s always more to understand. Even for something that seems as simple as peace.
What is Peace?
Peace isn’t just a thing that resides in yourself, though. It can be that, certainly. It’s supported by Merriam-Webster, where one of the definitions they give is ‘state of tranquility or quiet. But they also go on to give it a few other meanings, such as ‘freedom from civil disturbance’, and ‘freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, as well as ‘harmony in personal relationships.
This gives us a few ideas on what peace can mean in several situations: Peace for ourselves, both in a physical sense, and an emotional one, free from negative thoughts and urges. It also gives us the peace that can exist between individuals, like friends, family, and colleagues.
And there is also the peace that comes when a community of people can live in harmony with both themselves and those around them.
Peace, then, can as much mean a sense of unity, of wellness, of wholeness, as it does for something in ourselves. And we see this reflected, time and time again, in the bible and what it shows us.
Not just about God, or Jesus. But the stories show us of people’s lives being transformed by knowing Him, God, in our everyday actions, big or small.
Peace In The Old Testament
Starting with the Old Testament, we can see that peace is a vital part of the story of people living with God. Or, to be more specific, the consequences of losing something that connects you with God.
Take, for example, the story at the beginning of Genesis. When Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, and they are cast out of the Garden of Eden, what is it, exactly, that they have lost? That they had disobeyed God, that they knew between good and evil, they lost their peace.
The peace that not only their home brought, but the peace of being with God in his Garden. It is a story as much about the loss of that ultimate peace, as it is about the loss of Man’s innocence.
Even just glancing through the rest of the Old Testament, we can see that peace is a reoccurring theme, as it appears 237 times. Its first appearance is in Genesis Book 15, when God says to Abram: ‘You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.’ (Genesis Book 15:15).
In this instance, he is talking about the Hebrew people, how they will know peace whilst the other nations of the day that threaten them, will be punished for their crimes.
This is even a part of the old Hebrew language. The word ‘peace’ is translated from the word ‘Shalom’ (also written as Sholom, Sholem, Sholoim, and shulem, depending on the pronunciation).
Not only is it a common greeting to use in Hebrew, it is also a term to describe a sense of peace between different parties, be they between people, between nations or groups, or between a person and God. It can also be used as a term to wish wellness and good welfare on others.
With that context in mind, it recontextualizes many parts of the Old Testament. Take, for example, in Genesis 37:
‘So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.’ (Genesis 37:14)
This talk between Isreal and Joseph when he is asked to check on his brothers is as much asking to heal the fractured relationship between them and himself, and not just to check to see if they were well working in the field.
Similarly, when the story of Joseph and his brothers turns up again in Genesis, there is as much a theme of connection and peace to it:
‘He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?’ (Genesis 43:27)
This is what Joseph is asking of his family when he finds them in his home when he returns after escaping slavery. Not only have his brothers sold him into slavery, but they also sold him out of jealousy, due to their shared father’s affection for him.
At this point, the brothers and family do not know this is Joseph. They believe it is just a Governor.
When Joseph asks them about their father, it is not just a courtesy that Joseph is asking. It is as much a test by him on his brothers, to see if they have mended their broken relationship with their father, as well as healing themselves of the petty jealousy that caused them to sell their brother away.
So, we now have some good grounding for what peace can mean in the bible. both when it is used in the bible, and when it is implied through themes of togetherness, unity, and wellness.
With this knowledge under our belt, let’s take a look at where else peace comes up in the Bible.
How Peace Appears In The Bible
‘When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace
This verse from Proverbs is a great example of peace as it is brought to others. The proverb can seem a little confusing at first. After all, it seems like it is simply saying that even your opponents, those who have angered you or have taken up conflict with you, can be brought to the peace table with God on your side.
And yes, that is certainly one way of viewing the verse, and it wouldn’t be a wrong reading of it.
But, if that is all the proverb is trying to tell us, then why is the first part even mentioned? What does ‘When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,’ even mean in this scenario?
Well, one way of looking at it is that, if He is taking pleasure in how you are acting in a situation, then he approves of them. And if God approves of it, then it must be a god, a moral way of acting in that scenario, a grace given from God.
If this is the case, then through that act in of itself, by carrying out your day-to-day life as God hopes for and intends, your enemies, who you have treated with love, kindness, compassion, and of course, a sense of peace, they will have to consider how they are acting themselves, and will, with God intending, reflect that kindness by ending whatever conflict is between you, bringing peace between your sides.
Act as God has taught you, and your opponents will have to see the good in those actions and come to talks with you.
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’
This is a good one. It can sound a little like another piece of the Bible where we praise Him if you’re just glancing through the Bible. Of course, we want to bring glory to God on Earth, but what does it mean?
But if you stop to take a moment to pick it apart, the verse starts to make a little more sense. God is, after all, who we were created in the image of. He is our creator, the Creator of everything.
And those who follow him, have a better chance of finding that inner peace we first talked about, that tranquility in ourselves. And if those who follow God can do that for themselves, they can bring that peace to others.
That is, after all, why we want other people who aren’t necessarily believers to know his love. Through that peace brings in us, and us with others, and if we all have peace with God, then we will have brought Him back to Earth with us.
Bring that peace God brings with you to others, so that they might know Him, and through that, the same piece.
‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’
These verses are a prayer that reminds us why Jesus is the head of the Christian faith. The defining character, as it were.
It tells us that Jesus was full of the peace, that wholeness, that lacking that currently separates us from God, he was His will on Earth. You can tell that by all the stories of His encounters with those around him.
How people were made believers by their interactions with him. That by just meeting and witnessing him, they started to find peace, or at the very least, had begun to find that path.
It is a peace that can only come from being God on our Earth, that he both has that peace, accepting his fate to die on the cross, and brought that peace to others.
‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’
This verse at the beginning of Romans 12 sounds a little scary at first. After all, the person who is asking this is using some pretty evocative words!
But, it starts to make sense when you are considering the context a little more. Remember, this is a letter written were the Greeks and Roman, who, following their pantheon of gods and heroes, had been persecuting the Christian people. It is not simply telling people to offer themselves up, overwhelming you with
It is asking the reader, to look up from their little gods, or the obsessions that can seem to divide us from one another, the things that make us hurt one another, to come together and if only to listen for a moment, to listen to what the Word of God has to say.
To see for themselves if what God is teaching us can be considered a good way to live our lives.
Keep in mind, some of the gods that the Greeks and Romans worshiped could be very violent and petty to human beings in their stories. It implies that by being limited in their worship of ideas and beings that were powerful, but cruel, and they could divide people through that violence.
To let His teaching come through, to be kind and just to others, is to believe that there is a better way for us to live with each other, and to know peace.
It asks us to listen to God and to try a new path to peace.