Tag Archives: Jesus peace shalom

A “peaceful” existence may be full of conflict, if we’re doing it right

There are two different kinds of “peace” – and it matters which one we are pursuing.
One is, the kind where nothing is bothering us. A couple of days ago I had the gift of a peaceful hour on the deck in the sunshine, with nothing assaulting my ears but bird song. It was very “peaceful,” in the sense that there was no tension in it, nothing I had to do about it, nothing adversarial in it. There was nothing pulling at me about it. I didn’t need to fight it, flee it, do something about it, put it away, put it on my schedule…it wanted nothing from me and gave me freely a quiet in my soul.
There is that kind of peace.
But then there is the “shalom” kind of peace. The meaning of the Hebrew word for peace, which is transferred into the Greek word for peace, means a state of well-being for the community. It is certainly about lack of conflict, yes – but it is about more. It is about a personal sense of well-being (enough food, enough security, no grief) but not just for me – for everyone in my community. Shalom in its ideal state is what existed in the Garden of Eden, and will exist again in the “new heavens and new earth” of Isaiah 25, and Revelation 20.
That kind of peace can’t be had only by me. I can’t have that kind of peace if others are suffering, being robbed or assaulted, or fighting with one another.
So, paradoxically, we who follow the Prince of that kind of Peace must in this life take up a little conflict on behalf of others.
It is true that shalom won’t be in full flower until Jesus comes, but we are the ambassadors of his kingdom (2 Corinthians 5). As such, we live out a demonstration model for others to see as the kingdom – that’s why so many of our favorite passages have to do with relationships of well-being: 1 Corinthians 13 on love, Galatians 5 and the fruit of the Spirit, Ephesians 4 and maturing as disciples, for example.
The truth is, we can’t really pursue Peace #2 if we are dedicated to our personal Peace #1. And it’s Peace #2 Jesus assigned us to!
The other day someone told me they’d closed down their Facebook account because they were tired of arguing with people. They just wanted to have kind relationships with other people.
On one level, that is laudatory! I do know and confess it is easy to get into Facebook arguments and think you’re accomplishing something, but all you’re really doing is being obnoxious. This person is right to examine her own life and determine that this thing is not healthy or life-giving to her relationships. We all should be so careful about what we are doing.
But (and you knew there was a but coming, yes?) – and I don’t know this person well enough to know, so I’m not passing judgment on her, necessarily – to do that because you don’t want to hear things you disagree with, might not be such a good idea.
To close yourself off so that you only talk to the folks who already agree with you, so as to preserve for yourself Peace #1, just might prevent you from pursuing Peace #2. As Jesus continually told us, the fact that others mock us, fight us, persecute us and more doesn’t mean we’re not doing it right. (Those things don’t necessarily mean we ARE doing it right, either!) But wrestling over important ideas about what it means to be a community, and how to live together in ways that benefit everyone, are worth the conflict, discontent and tension.
The fact is, this world is not going to deliver Peace #2. It’s not organized for it, and according to Paul in Romans 8, it can’t even, to the extent that the Spirit of God is not at work in it. The voice of evil is too strong and the current of the combination of our own selfish and fearful desires with our rebellion against God pulls too hard.
Jesus, in suggesting that following him would include moments in which we have to turn the other cheek, was allowing for the possibilities we’d be struck! Pursuing Peace #2 is not going to feel good sometimes, so Peace #1 becomes one of those things we give up willingly in order to follow him in some situations.
Much more should be said about what Peace #2 means and how we contribute towards it, This summer I’m planning a sermon series on “How to Thrive,” which is another word (along with “flourishing”) that relates to the idea of shalom.
But while everyone needs an hour in the sunshine from time to time, a Sabbath from conflict and tension (even Jesus – thus the all-night prayer times recorded in the gospels!), let us admit that we can’t pursue that kind of “peace” for ourselves at the expense of forgetting the important aspects of our call to follow Him.
We don’t need to be obnoxious or ruin our relationships – but indeed we will enter conflict and tension, and it will not be comfortable if we do it Jesus’ way. Let’s embrace that consciously.

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