“Peace,” my friends and I used to say as we bid each other farewell with two fingers stretched sideways across the chest (the way the cool kids flashed the peace sign). In the early church, believers traded the same greeting (probably without the two fingers). They picked it up from Jesus, of course. Before He went to the cross, Jesus assured His disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). After God raised Him from the dead, He re-appeared to them with a threefold greeting, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21, 26).
But what is this peace that Jesus gave to His disciples? And what does it mean when we “give” it to each other? Often, we take it to be “inner peace.” Christ has reconciled us to the Father, so now we have a peace with God that provides mental and emotional stability in an unstable world. That is wonderfully true (Rom 5:8), but it’s only half the answer. Jesus did not just come to bring inner peace. He came to bring outer peace, as well.
Last Sunday, our church considered Jesus, the Prince of Peace who God had promised to send in Isaiah 9:1-7. This child—born of a woman, yet given of heaven—would bring an end to every threat—not by winning a war, but by putting an end to all war. Every muddy combat boot and bloody garment would be burned, every sword beaten into a blade for the plow, and every spear bent into a pruning hook (cf. Isa 2:4). One day, the Prince would secure a cosmic peace, not just between God and man but between man and man, together with all creation.
The ancient Hebrews called this peace shalom—a pervasive wholeness that affects every aspect of our existence. Shalom is the peace of the original creation. And in a broken world marred by the fall and its effects, shalom is what awaits us in the new creation. This is the all-encompassing peace that Jesus died to win. Although we do not yet see it in its fullness, we are called to be a people of peace as we await the return of our heavenly Prince.
If we’ve bowed the knee to Jesus, then we are agents of shalom and Spirit-filled heralds of the Father who makes peace by the blood of His cross. I pray the peace of Christ would rule in our hearts this Advent (Col 3:15), but may that peace also overflow our hearts and manifest in gracious words and loving actions. Timely encouragement, generous gifts, invites for dinner—these are just a few of the many ways we can offer a taste of shalom to others. As we do, let’s invite them to come and know the Prince who brings us perfect peace—inside and out.