Summary: Peace...“The condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Roadmap to Peace
George W. Bush and I were in Israel earlier this month … not together. But I did see his airplane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion. He came over as part of an eight day trip to bring peace to the Middle East. I appreciate his optimism, but eight days isn’t much time.
Like I usually do before writing about a particular subject I research the definitions of key words to get a feel for what they really mean. This week’s subject, “Peace,” wasn’t any different. Webster’s defines “peace” as: “the condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting//the end of a state of war//the treaty that marks the end of war//friendly relations between individuals, untroubled by disputes.”
“The condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting.” That sounds reasonable. That’s what everybody wants for the Middle East, right? That’s why President Bush went over there, right? He wants peace in the Middle East. That’s what I want too.
I get most of my instructions from a Book that has a lot to say about Israel and a lot to say about peace. It’s the single most authoritative work on Israel and on peace ever written. As a matter of fact, it includes a Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East; it’s been in there for nearly two thousand years. I’m talking about the Bible, of course, and I wonder why more politicians don’t consult it as they work toward peace in the Middle East.
The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek originally. And since that’s the Book I’m studying to understand how to achieve peace (whether it’s in the Middle East or in my own heart) I figured I’d better understand the definition of peace in those languages.
“Eirene” is the Greek word for peace in the New Testament. There’s another word, “sigao,” translated peace in English but it means “be quiet” or “hold your tongue” as in “keep your peace.” Not the kind of peace we’re looking for right now.
Eirene, to the secular Greeks back in New Testament days, meant about the same as “peace” means to us as defined by Webster, “the absence of war.” The New Testament writers, though, drew on their Hebrew roots to make eirene mean something deeper than just “not fighting.”
The Hebrew word for “peace” is probably the best known Hebrew word, by Jews and Gentiles alike, around the world. It’s the word, “Shalom.” “Shalom” means more than just “the absence of war.” According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary; “It was not a negative or passive concept but involved wholeness and completeness. The related verb could mean to ‘repay’ or ‘fulfill a vow’ and so referred to completing or repairing a relationship. A related adjective could be used to describe something as ‘uninjured, safe, complete, peaceable.’”
So, “Shalom” peace means “wholeness, completeness, that something’s already been paid for or that a vow has been fulfilled.” It means that “a relationship has been completed or repaired.” Wow. That’s a lot more than just “not fighting.”
Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about the Greek words for “love”? The Greeks never really used the word, agapao in secular society. Agapao referred to God’s sacrificial love in response to our need; it was a word and a definition reserved for the Christians.
“Eirene”(peace) was treated the same way. The secular Greeks limited its definition to “the absence of war.” Early Christians, however, had a deeper meaning for “eirene”; drawn from their Hebraic roots and their relationship with the resurrected Christ, who became “peace” for them.
“Peace,” to the early Christians (and hopefully to us later Christians) meant much more than “the absence of war”; it was a relationship with the One who reconciles what is broken so that it is once again whole, once again as it should be, once again at peace.
Peace is a relationship. It’s reconciliation between God and man. The relationship between God and man was broken when our father Adam chose his own way. Peace is a state of being whole; that state of being was broken in the Garden. Fixing that broken relationship, that broken state of being, required that a price be paid.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, understood the broken relationship and the price for making it whole again. Through his death on the cross, He made payment for Adam’s sin debt, providing the way for Adam’s children to be reconciled, be at peace, with God; their relationship restored.
Broken relationships between men are only reflections and symptoms of the broken relationship between God and man. Likewise, peace between men is only possible when man has come to a place of peace with God. The one key relationship must be restored in order to make restoring other relationships possible.