If you ask someone what does peace look like they would probably describe a tranquil scene, absent of trouble, hardship, or suffering. For that is the common way of think about peace in our culture. Nothing bad happening. No violence. No obstacle. No negative or discouraging words. That’s what people usually think of or imagine peace to be.
This is different then the biblical idea of peace. Every Sunday in church we say “Peace” to each other. More than a greeting, this actually a blessing we are giving each other. This practice comes from the word shalom. The sentiment – when used in a Biblical way – is to greet people and as you do so speak God’s peace into their lives. In English we used to say “May God’s peace be upon you.” But in our hurried and rushed world that was way too many words to say so it was shortened to just saying “peace” (losing most of the meaning along the way).
Author John MacArthur laments this practice when he writes “The biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is unrelated to circumstances; it is a goodness of life that is not touched by what happens on the outside. You may be in the midst of great trials and still have biblical peace. Paul said he could be content in any circumstance; and he demonstrated that he had peace even in the jail at Philippi, where he sang and remained confident that God was being gracious to him.” The peace we speak into each other’s lives is not dependent upon what the world is doing. It does not need paradise to exist. It something that is a great and wonderful gift that God has already given us. Sadly, because of the brokenness of the world it is a gift that is often left unopened and pushed aside in our lives. We keep waiting till our circumstances are peaceful (something that will never happen this side of heaven for more than a minute or two) instead of experiencing the gift that God has already presented to us. One of the secrets to experiencing this gift of peace is learning to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5)” In this chaotic and hurtful world is often very difficult to trust in God. Learning to do so is a key element to the exercising and growing of our faith – and thus in experiencing God’s peace.
Our worship theme for this Advent – the time that we dedicate to preparing for Christmas – is Peace on Earth. We will be exploring – both in worship and in our advent devotional- how we can learn to open this wonderful, precious gift of peace that God has already given us.
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