We live in uncertain times. Every week there seems to be some new horror story that shakes, disturbs and unsettles us.
There’s no doubt that we’re all living through a time of great uncertainty, confusion, and division and this is causing a great deal of anxiety. We look to history for some insight into what’s going on and although we can make comparisons, it seems like the problems of today have all too recently been problems of our own making.
Society is stuck. No one is in control and those that are, don’t really seem to have a grip on what’s going on or have any real power to change things.
Meanwhile, there’s more violence, terror, hatred, and division. But our hearts still yearn for one thing; peace.
Peace. That tireless dream of humanity that always escapes reality. Like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we never find it. Although it doesn’t stop us from forever trying.
What chance then, of ever finding peace for ourselves and our fellow men and women?
Call me an optimist, call me crazy, but I believe it’s possible. Not only that, it’s vital, especially if human beings are to survive the next hundred years.
So to look forward, we need to look back, to the old Hebrew scriptures hearing how their teaching and prophets were inspired by God to bring His message and His hope for such a time as this.
Because they have a surprising message for us.
Peace, Shalom, in the Hebrew bible, is not just the absence of war, it’s a radical, more holistic understanding of peace because it’s the bringing of wholeness.
Curious? Now is the time to rediscover, to claim, and to live out the biblical view of Shalom, peace.
Here’s how we do it.
Finding peace between people or parties.
When we’re at peace with others, we’re at peace with ourselves. Easier said than done, right? Perhaps. But in order to begin to create peace on a big scale, we’ve got start with the small. We’ve got to establish and maintain peace among all our own relationships. That includes our family, friends, colleagues, other believers or anybody else you have a connection with, no matter who.
Peace and good relationships can only be maintained with good communication and understanding someone else. We all know that, it’s not controversial. So far so nice. But there’s something else too, something everyone should be open to doing. I’ll call it a covenant of openness and that is that I’m open to hearing difficult things about myself if you will be too. If we aren’t challenged to live a better life and to grow to be a whole people, in relationship to each other then we can never find peace
Let me explain more because I’ve learned this the hard way, in one part of my life. It’s called marriage. It’s very good for showing up my blind spots and areas I need to work on (as it has been for my wife too). This talking “clears the air”. After learning where I’ve had to change for the good of each other, I’ve become more whole. I’ve become less lacking in love and more about ‘the we’ and less about ‘the me’. Yep, and that’s one essential way to peace and wholeness.
We can call it dialogue, a speech that is back and forwards (the original meaning) or a speech where we exchange and challenge assumptions, patterns of living, and even wrongs.
On the big scale, in recent history, South Africa sought to find healing from its racist past by setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For the time it was an incredibly brave thing to do because it meant that past injustices, grievances, and wrongs could be talked about openly and addressed. It was a big step forward for a divided country to be reconciled and healed. It happened at an individual level but it came to represent the whole.
True dialogue like this is dangerous. It is not a safe space. But it is a path to self-understanding, change and to finding wholeness.
And this truth would go a long way to healing other political divisions too, which is a tough reality for a lot of countries today. The liberal/conservative split (to oversimplify) has never been more entrenched and tribal.
But it needn’t be, that is if you choose to walk in the way of shalom-peace. Those who you think you differ most with, could, in fact, be your greatest gift. They might change you for the better, challenge your limited viewpoint (which we all have) and perhaps even deepen your own convictions, but with more empathy of the other’s experience.
By welcoming them as friends, not strangers, watch how you and your life be transformed for the better toward shalom-peace.
Finding peace in us and around us.
“Give Peace a Chance” was the rallying call during the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s and it’s just as impassioned today. But is this the kind of peace that the Bible talks of? Partly, but this oversimplifies it. Shalom peace is about the safety of body and mind. This does, of course, mean the absence of war but it also means so much more; like tranquility, security and fullness of life. Included in the social view of shalom peace is prosperity, good health and fulfillment in life too. Whether believers or not this is something we all need to work for to bring to fulfillment and challenge whatever forces there are that oppose themselves to God’s plan for humanity. The challenge is how? The answer is found in a person.
Finding peace from the Prince of Peace
As Christians, we have no greater example than Jesus himself, the Prince of Peace. True peace for Christians (and Jews) comes from establishing a right relationship with God. But for followers of Jesus, finding this peace has its origin in the person and work of Jesus himself.
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.’ Ephesians 2:14-17.
In a world tormented by religiously inspired violence, where the walls of hostility are erected between us and where the egotistical and fleshly desires of religious fanatics tear the world apart, we can do no better to return to the life and work of Jesus himself.
It’s a brave and incredible thing to truly live out his example, in the power of God’s spirit.
If we live it out, then ‘righteousness and peace kiss each other’ Psalm 85:10, and the hopes of all humanity may just be that step closer.
6 ‘The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.’ Excerpts from Isaiah 11:6-11.
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Jeremy- Not Only Sundays – Bible Wisdom for Every day.
© Not Only Sundays, June 2017.
Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
Images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC.