By Bruce Sampson
Spiritual Training Cycle: Presence (wk. 2/13)
If you spend any time looking at humanity, you’ll quickly discover how complex life can be. It’s full of uncertainty, difficulty, and sometimes conflict. Underneath the surface of what we see, there is a war that’s constantly raging. The war that’s fighting against us in our marriage, the war against our physical health, the war between a brother, sister, or neighbor, and the most deceptive of them all is the war over our mind.
At some point we are all looking for a peace treaty somewhere to end the cycles of frustration or conflict we face. The literal definition of peace can mean the absence of war or the freedom from disturbance. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid a difficult situation. There are some wars we put ourselves into and other are wars that come to us.
In turn, our philosophy for gaining peace often becomes to run. Our way of “peacemaking” turns into avoidance, disengaging, finding coping mechanisms, or making compromises to our character to reach satisfaction. Instead of gaining peace in a friendship by admitting our fault in conflict to reconcile, we block them online. Instead of gaining peace over our addictions by getting professional help, we avoid the responsibility that we have over our actions. In the end peace becomes just what we make of it. When we all bring a different reality of peace that comes from our own self-preservation in fear of our wars, then we won’t ever see the peace we hope to see in the world that’s unified and whole.
The Biblical view of peace offers a better solution. Biblical peace points to something better in the place of brokenness. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is ‘shalom’. It can be translated as completeness or wholeness. As a verb, it can mean to make complete, to reconcile, or bring together. It’s a word that is used more actively than passively.
It can look like doing a workout to its completion, no matter how long or arduous it may have been. It’s in the victory of crossing the finish line or the rigor that goes into training to shave two seconds off our old time. It’s not simply settling a dispute with a friend but laying aside all resentment in order to emotionally heal and bring about a better relationship than what was before. It can refer to anything complex from the organization of a project to our own personal well-being that’s in a state of completeness.
While there are many ways we can create peace that looks like completeness and wholeness, there is one area of our life that’s intended to be at peace but we fail on our own to accomplish. This is in our relationship with God. This form of peace is different because instead of a peace that’s gained, it’s a peace that must be given. We have peace only because Jesus has given it to us.
On our own we are fractured. By our own works, we are incomplete in restoring the relationship between us and God left by sin. Without peace we remain at war with God. The Bible says that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has come to give us His peace. Jesus is the complete human I was made to be but fail to be. When we place our faith in Jesus, we have shalom with God not because of our works but His.
When we place our faith in Jesus, we have shalom with God not because of our works but His.
We are all likely to fall away from the peace God gives to us. This is why in our spiritual fitness we can be reminded how dependent we are on Christ. Prayer, worship, praying on behalf of others, or generosity, to name a few, can point us back to the cross where Jesus claimed victory over our war by giving up His life for us. We now have peace because of His resurrection that promises us an eternal life with Him. It’s a peace we now have knowing that because Jesus loved me through the cross, I can love others. Because Jesus forgave me on the cross, I can forgive others. Because Jesus gave up His life on the cross, I can have the generosity to give to those in need.
To have faith in Jesus is to take hold of His life, including His suffering, so that through the work of the Holy Spirit we may exercise our mind, body, and spirit to completeness until the day He returns or calls us home. True peace requires taking what is broken and restoring it to wholeness whether in our lives, in our relationships, or in our world.
The next time we are at the gym we can become the place of peace that others are attracted to. Our class can be our mission field for sharing peace. If the culture is negative in the way others might complain about the workout or gossip about each other, we can take steps of humility in showing the peace we have with God to stay loving towards others and coachable no matter what’s on the whiteboard. Let’s use the peace we have with God to make peace with those around us in light of what Jesus has done for us. Only through faith in Jesus can we find true shalom.
Questions for Reflection:
What conflicts in your life rob you of peace?
Of the words describing shalom (wholeness, fullness, completeness, peace, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility), which one are you finding in Jesus right now?