Nature of Peace
BIBLICAL PEACE (εἰρήνη/eirēnē) isn’t an innate inner resource or an attitude conditioned by amenable circumstances. The Old Testament background would be the promise of שָׁלוֹם/shalom. So in the New Testament it can refer to divinely supplied welfare1Mark 5:34; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21; Rom 1:7; 5:1; 15:33; Gal 5:22; Eph 2:14; Phil 4:7, 9; Col 3:15 and the consequent freedom from worry (Gal 5:22).2John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 167–68.
Even though peace is spiritual fruit, Paul links it to an implied if… then relationship that requires discipleship: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9)
Gift of God
Elsewhere in the New Testament, we see peace described as a gift from God; even though it’s linked with faithful discipleship, it’s not a work of the flesh.
- “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
- “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Rom 5:1).
- “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22).
- “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Greeting and Commission
It can be a greeting or a benediction. So when Jesus appeared to his fearful disciples after the resurrection, he incorporated the “peace” into both his greeting and into his evangelistic commission
- “That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said” (John 20:19).
- “Again he said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you’” (John 20:21).
In somewhat of a mirror of a greeting, the “peace” can serve as a Christian benediction:
- “I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace” (Rom 1:7).
- “And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen” (Rom 15:33).
- “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (Eph 2:14).
- “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Col 3:15).
In the Old Testament wisdom literature the sowing of discord among brothers is hateful and abominable to God (Pr. 6:19). Peace is therefore one of the marks of the children of God—not only peace with God but peace with one another: in the home (1 Cor. 7:15), in the church (1 Cor. 14:33; Eph. 4:3), in the world (Rom. 12:18), between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14–18). ‘Let us then pursue what makes for peace (τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης) and for mutual upbuilding’ (Rom. 14:19); this is the way to receive the blessing pronounced by Jesus on ‘the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Mt. 5:9).7
Peace vis-a-vis the Charismata
Blessed are the peacemakers is true in general and more particularly true of how we exercise the gifts of the Spirit. This is especially true if we think of the broader context of “peace” in the Old Testament, where שָׁלוֹם/šālôm refers not only to the absence of conflict but to more general well-being, even prosperity.
A prayer to become a peacemaker…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen3A prayer by St. Francis of Assisi
- Do you now experience God’s peace, does it guard your heart and minds as you live in Christ Jesus?
- Does the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts so that you live in peace with the whole Body of Christ?