“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” — Colossians 3:15
In the final episode of the television series MASH, in the operating room the doctors are performing surgery and a speaker on the wall broadcasts the report of war correspondent Robert Pierpoint. You can hear the explosions from artillery fire and some small arms fire in the background. It is almost 10:00 a.m. according to the clock nearby. Pierpoint stops speaking, and seconds later the sounds of war cease. A look of disbelief passes over the faces of the medical staff, then Pierpoint says, “That is the sound of peace.” No one smiles. There is no joy on their faces. They return immediately to the bloody work at hand. The ceasefire of July 27, 1953 did not Institute an era of peace for the Korean peninsula. It has now been over 67 years since that day, and the two Koreas are still in a state of war. The DMZ is the most heavily defended National border in the world. The tension between to the two countries is tangible.
In classical Greek the word for peace denotes an interlude in a state of hostility, much like what was enacted in that episode of MASH. The whole concept of peace, though, changed on the day that the Son of God became man. The Prince of Peace was born into the world, and peace became incarnate. At the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14), the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” Peace is, at its heart, unity with God. The Prince of Peace came to reign. As St. Paul exhorts in the passage quoted above, we are to let “the peace of Christ rule in our hearts”.
Peace originates in God and is made present in our covenant relationship with him. As the psalmist said in Psalm 85:8, “He speaks peace to his people, to his saints”. And two verses later it says, “righteousness and peace kiss each other”. When we live in our covenant of peace with God, we are in right relationship. This is not some psychological readjustment of our thinking; nor is it the institution of a self-help program for getting along with other people. The peace of God is a manifesting of Christ in our lives, allowing Him to direct our thoughts as well as our actions.
The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is much more than just a greeting. The word appears 250 times in the Old Testament. It is an important principle. The word implies a sense of completeness and harmony with the world, with God, and with others. It implies an unimpaired relationship in covenant with God and each other. When shalom is used as a greeting, there is an implied blessing of holiness upon the other. Shalom is evidence of God’s covenant and a right relationship with him.
The Greek word for peace, eirene, ties closely to shalom, and is completed in the Incarnation. Peace is intended to become the normal state for those living in Christ. We are called to manifest His will and display His glory, being at peace regardless of our circumstances. Those who are in the Body of Christ are to make God’s peace present, incarnate, in the world.