We just went through another cycle of presidential candidates debating with each candidate saying in their loudest voice, “I and only I can keep you safe.”
We just had Christmas, the 2015th birthday of a king. According to Luke 2:14, at the first Christmas angels declared to the shepherds, “On earth peace among men with whom God is pleased.”
The candidates seemed to think of peace as simply the absence of armed conflict within our homeland. The biblical words for peace mean more than just physical safety.
In our New Testament, the Greek word we translate as peace (Eirene) is used 90 times. It does mean the opposite of armed conflict, but often it is the peace brought by a leader or God. Eirene is a process, a path of peace. Eirene is a sign of the God’s rule. Eirene also means health and welfare. The word is often linked with joy.
The Hebrew word Shalom means peace in our Old Testament, where it is used 340 times. Shalom as a verb means, to be complete or to be sound. When Shalom is used as a noun its meaning fills a page, but includes: completeness, soundness, welfare, peace as in the absence of armed conflict.
The Jews are less confident of a leader bringing us peace, unless that leader is God, or the Messiah.
The candidates each promised to keep us safe. But as you now know, the biblical image of peace is far more than safety. Much of the biblical flavor in the words for peace is of: being on the right path, trusting God only and experiencing wholeness in body, soul and mind. I guess every presidential candidate wants to convince the voters that they are our savior, but that job is too big for any human — save one.
The path to peace starts with you and me, and whom we trust to bring it.
Peace and joy be with you all.
Doug Melius is a pastor with First Presbyterian Church.