If you’re like most, you probably think of peace as the absence of conflict. Common definitions of peace focus on what is missing, such as hostility, tension, antagonism, or war.
And yet biblical peace, referred to in the Old Testament as shalom, is not about the absence of something but the presence of someone. Shalom signifies the presence of God and the flourishing of humanity in relationship to God. Where the grace of God is triumphant, our relationship with Him brings wholeness to our souls as well as our horizontal relationships. But if you survey the polarizing turmoil and turbulence that permeate our culture today, you may conclude that peace is just a warm sentiment held by those who are just whistling in the cold, winter air.
If you grew up with siblings in your home, you may recall the competitive rivalry that surfaced over seemingly petty issues. Disagreements with your domestic adversary may have escalated to the point of shouting or even an occasional fisticuff. When brothers and sisters become locked within their own selfish determination, a truce is often brokered by the firm but loving intrusion of a third party. As Pastor Chris Nye explains, “It takes an invasion from the outside, your mom or dad, entering in and breaking it up.”
And so, it seems that the only way to establish peace is through the intervention of a transcendent character. Yet peace-making is never achieved without a price.
During the Christmas season, we often sing together, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” from the hymn, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is referred to as “the Prince of Peace.” But, how often have you reflected on the terms and conditions of peaceful reconciliation mediated for you by the Prince of Peace?
In Luke 2:25-32 the mysterious priest, Simeon, formally blessed the infant Jesus in the presence of his parents. Afterwards, he spoke privately to Mary, Jesus’ mother, and said, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (vs. 34-35). A sobering prophecy revealed a haunting future for Mary’s first-born child. Peace will only come through suffering.
When the transcendent Son of God entered the world as the Prince of Peace, he endured the role of suffering servant so that you could experience peace with God (Romans 5:1). But there is a struggle you must endure as well.
According to Timothy Keller, peace with God can only be yours “after the inner conflict of repentance.” This means that peace can only be consummated when you acknowledge and turn away from the self-serving disease that poisons your heart.
During this joyous season of Advent, we acknowledge and celebrate the coming of the transcendent Son of God whose joy it was to endure the agony of the cross (Hebrews 12:2). The Gospel message is good news about an invasion from the outside. Perhaps it’s time submit to the loving and sacrificial intervention of the Prince of Peace so that the shalom of God may be abundantly yours