The subject of my last two posts has been exploring the people God created us to be. There is a unique and universal element to this. We will explore the unique elements next, but with this post let’s finish up the look at the universal (you can see the posts on love and joy here).
The third universal element is peace. The life of a disciple is peaceful, but kingdom peace is deeper than what we typically think when we hear the word. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom is more holistic than just a lack of violence and strife. Shalom is physical peace, piece of mind and peace of spirit. To a Hebrew shalom carries connotations of wholeness, fullness, and completeness.
The essence of shalom is a return to Eden, to God’s original design for humanity and all of creation. It is the restoration of the relationships damaged in the fall. Shalom means wholeness and peace in our relationship with God. It means wholeness and healing in our relationship with ourselves, and shalom is wholeness and peace in the way we live and interact with the rest of God’s creation, other people and nature.
The concept of shalom was absolutely central in the life and kingdom expectations of the Jews. The Old Testament is full of references to the kingdom shalom that the Messiah was expected to bring. He is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). His justice brings everlasting peace (Isaiah 32:17). God promises in the final days to make an eternal covenant of peace with his people (Ezekiel 37:26).
To get a better understanding of shalom, one modern rabbi contrasts the peace of shalom with the Roman (and modern) view of peace like this.One can dictate a peace; shalom is a mutual agreement.
Peace is a temporary pact; shalom is a permanent agreement.
One can make a peace treaty; shalom is the condition of peace.
Peace can be negative, the absence of commotion. Shalom is positive, the presence of serenity.
Peace can be partial; shalom is whole.
Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete.
The peace of shalom is peace of mind, body and spirit. Imagine for a moment this kind of peace in your life. It means not aching for what we don’t have. It means allowing others to be the people God created them to be and we are deaf to the demands of others telling us to be someone we are not. It means being content with our bodies, cars, houses, spouses (or lack of) and children.
Imagine that life for a moment. What if shalom was the defining characteristic of your life? We may not experience complete shalom with the absence of pain and sadness today, but that does not mean shalom is completely absent. I suspect that’s why Paul calls it shalom that can’t be understood (Philippians 4:7). Shalom in the midst of this broken world is God’s gift for his disciples.
You have likely noticed that these first three characteristics of the life we are created to live are the first three fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. That is because the fruits of the Spirit are the essence of the character of Christ, and they are the universal elements of life in the kingdom. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The more and more we become the people we were created to be, the more we be people of love, joy, peace, and so on. These characteristics become a part of who we are and the life we are created to live flows from that state of being.