The Gospels use the Greek work eirene for “peace.” One commentator says that peace “is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security.” I don’t know about you, but I would gladly settle for a little bit of euphoria coupled with security. But is this what God promises in the here and now?
History does tell of martyrs who went to their death gladly and peacefully. And Paul, writing from prison, says that he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). Paul is saying that it is possible to learn to be peaceful regardless of our circumstances.
Still, it would seem that even Jesus did not always experience emotional peace. Witness his anger at the way the temple had been turned into a marketplace, or his tears at the death of his friend Lazarus, or his agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps neither Jesus or his Father are promising that we will always feel peaceful, at least while we are here on earth. Maybe they are more concerned that we learn to base our lives on the peace that Christ has won, experiencing ever-deepening shalom as we follow after him.
That peace has been won by the person we know as the Prince of Peace, or in Hebrew, Sar Shalom. Though Jesus spoke of bringing a sword, he also brought shalom to all who embrace the gospel.
- To the woman bleeding for twelve years, he said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:34)
- To the woman who washed his feet with tears, he said: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)
- To the disciple who doubted, he said: “Peace be with you!…Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:26-27)
- To his disciples before his death, he said: “My peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
In these moments and many others from the Gospels, we see Jesus restoring what is broken, healing what is bent, saving what is on the brink of destruction. If we want peace, we must embrace the one who brings it. Living as his disciple is the only way to experience all that Christ has for us.