Shalom in Ferguson? According to Strong’s Dictionary, shalom goes beyond “peace” to encompass “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” What chance do you think Ferguson has in the near future for any of those?
But let me suggest Ferguson is merely a metaphor for America, or even the world. Stress from facing more issues than we can handle, a pace that leaves little time to catch our breath, and conflict between others and within ourselves and even with the concept of God leaves us dry and drained and on edge. Almost continually. We snap too easily and too often. The mere “absence of discord” seems unattainable, let alone deeper concepts such as wholeness, harmony, tranquility.
At church this morning, Advent started with a nice family reading several passages on peace to prepare us for Christmas. Two struck me and led me to explore it, leading to a third verse. Please don’t assume we can do these easily, they often go against our grain, but when we commit to them, they can help increase the amount of peace in our world.
First, and appropriately at Christmas, realize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We can’t claim to love Jesus if we don’t value peace. Some of us take pride in our prickliness, in just being ourselves. And often we increase the conflict of life, which is antithetical to following the Prince of Peace. This verse also suggests that Jesus is the source of genuine peace, so if we truly want to maximize peace, knowing him is essential.
Second, God desires that peace permeates all men. When the angels announced the coming birth of Jesus to the shepherds they expressed God’s purpose that peace flow, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The normal Christian life is to have peace. Hmmm. That convicts me. As I age, I almost take delight in being frank, nearly curmudgeonly, without first exploring if it will increase or decrease peace. Granted, the truth will often create a healthy conflict so problems can be identified and solved. But am I trying to do it with grace with the goal of peace? Not enough.
Finally, that suggests we need to take purposeful actions to spread it. The apostle Peter encourages us to live in harmony, beginning in verse 8, then gives a number of actions to enhance that, including “he must seek peace and pursue it” (verse 11). Peace don’t come easy, to paraphrase an old classic rock song. Commitment, an awareness of intentionally seeking it, is needed.
Taken all together, that means a commitment to following Jesus requires a committed connection to what the Prince of Peace loves—peace. It requires a committed intentionality to giving peace in difficult times. Like Ferguson. If Christmas has meaning to us, we need to work at increasing the peace in the world.
Kick Starting the Application
How peaceful is your life? How do your actions contribute to it (either by action or inaction)? On a scale of 1-10, how much do you pursue peace? What areas do you do well in? What areas need improvement? How does the concept that Jesus is the Prince of Peace shape your daily thoughts and actions?