“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
Peace is a popular word. We want it for the world. We proclaim it over friends. We come in from a long day of work, pack up the kids in the minivan for the night’s outing, have Veggie Tales music blasting while sitting in a long line at Chick fil A, with piercing requests from the backseat for more nuggets while water spills all over your lap … and you may just snap, turn everything off, and plead to the skies “can we just have a moment of peace and quiet!”
(Disclaimer: I know nothing about this last one, and *definitely* didn’t experience this last night).
We yearn for peace, as we should. But the peace we yearn for may be just a tiny shred of the peace Jesus offers. While we may plead for a moment without pain, or just some silence, or one single thing that is finally a bit easy, this is quite far from the expansiveness of the biblical concept of peace.
Shalom is a word that signifies completeness, soundness, prosperity, well-being, harmony, security, and salvation. At its core, shalom expresses the hope for the fullness and rightness of the cosmos that God has planned in the redemption of all things.
The thing about shalom is that although it is often linked to ease, comfort, quiet, it almost never comes through ease, comfort, or quiet. True shalom always comes about through struggle, risk, and discomfort.
Look to the manger in the battle-hardened town of Bethlehem … occupied by Roman soldiers. Tears, cries, mess, filth, and faithfulness. Peace on whom his favor rests.
Look to the cross outside of the city … bloodied screams from suffering men. Anger, rage, pain, and forgiveness. Prince of Peace.
Peace is far more than the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice.
Peace is far more than the absence of pain; it is the presence of rightness.
Peace is far more than the absence of darkness; it is the presence of beauty.
So, how do we let the peace of Jesus Messiah dwell in us richly, ruling our hearts?
SEEKING PEACE AND PURSUING IT
Of course, we know that any peace we want to offer to those we are discipling means experiencing that peace ourselves. We cannot offer what/who we don’t know.
Let’s look at a few (perhaps surprising or paradoxical) ways Jesus brought peace. Maybe in examining Jesus’ methods, we can better seek God’s peace in ourselves, in those we are discipling, and in the world around us.
Imagine the life of a Bethlehemite. Your history, at least for the last few centuries, was an endless list of changing foreign rulers, foreign political powers, laws, taxes, and imposed practices. They were passed from one empire to another. Tennis can be fun … unless you are the ball. It seemed like every hundred years the uniforms changed on soldiers that march through your town on the way to Jerusalem. The false peace promised by the Roman Empire and their King Herod came at the cost of the lives of all Bethlehem’s boys born in the previous two years. Something had to be done.
God did not sit back inactive, seeking a ceasefire with Rome and calling that peace. No, God did something about it. But he didn’t seek peace by destroying all his enemies … he didn’t send an army; he didn’t send plagues. Instead, God brought peace by showing up. God “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”1
If you want God’s peace ruling in your hearts, if you want it in the lives of those you are discipling, consider just showing up. Presence is a powerful path to peace, to shalom. It’s hard to seek rightness in our lives if we’re never present to it. It’s hard to train up others in the way of Jesus if we are never with them.
God brought peace by showing up, we should do the same.
CALMING A STORM
this is an obvious one, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
The small breath of wind from out of nowhere suddenly becomes a gust that presses you onto your back foot. Waves lap up against the side of the boat, then begin to crash water, gushing all around your feet. Your face is red and raw from the water pummeling your skin. Jesus just grabs his pillow and rolls over for more sleep.
You yell, so he gets up, notices the frenzy you’re in, and exerts his authority. He rebukes all sources of panic … the wind and waves, and also, the disciples.
Sometimes, peace means cutting through the noise. Have you ever been discipling someone and it feels like there are so many things going wrong (in reality, or just in their perception of reality) that no one can hear each other? Or maybe our own minds are revving so fast with fear, anger, pain, resentment, or worry that we can hardly hear God’s voice? Sometimes, we need to be like Jesus and rebuke the crazy. Sometimes we need to call out, in the power of Jesus, “Silence.” Then take a breath, and see with clarity that all things have been placed under Jesus’ feet.
INVITE INTO HEALING
It had been thirty-eight years. Forty years was considered a long life for a paralyzed man in the first century. But, thirty-eight years of life this man had spent without use of his legs. Surrounded by so many others that shared his plight, hoping for the power of a miraculous yet unreachable whirlpool, this man laid. Jesus, being a peacemaker, lived out point one. He showed up.
Then he did something amazing, a small fact that shows up in many other healing stories. After learning of his condition, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”2 He gently invited the man out of his current condition and into life on the other side. The man only had to do the impossible made possible, to pick up his mat and walk.
For those you are discipling, what invitation into healing do they need? Even if it is the impossible that God can make possible? Often, there is some obstacle, maybe even a seemingly immovable one, that is between a person and the true shalom God wants for them. Sometimes, you can help another (or yourself) seek peace by naming that obstacle, then inviting into healing.
I wonder what the disciples thought about the prophesied Prince of Peace as he was fashioning a whip out of cords, ready for the money keepers in the temple.3 It was not ease, calm, or serenity Jesus was bringing as he stormed into the temple courts to overturn tables and scatter the coins everywhere. Ever play a really bad game of Monopoly? That’s what I imagine. Tables flipped over… money flying everywhere.
Now, lots has been written about this scene. Some quickly identify with rageful, justice-warrior Jesus. But what did he do after this? He invited in the blind and the lame into the temple for healing, then sang songs and talked with children.
He confronted injustice and wrongdoing. Then, he replaced it with what was intended. He was not afraid of the conflict, but dove into it headfirst with the plan to replace corruption with beauty.
We cannot be peacemakers if we are afraid to confront evil (in ourselves or in those we’ve been charged to disciple). There are times that peace will only come on the other side of a challenge, of a confrontation, of an argument. A healthy marriage is not one where disagreement and quarrels are non-existent, but where they are done in love.
Trying to keep the peace by avoiding disagreement or conflict is like building a barn without any nails. It might hold up for a little while, but eventually, it’s going to fall apart. Peace is worth the conflict.
Upon carrying the violent rage of humanity, the brutality and darkness of all our sin, Jesus looked at his murderers and said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”4 This was Jesus bringing peace in the greatest sense. In forgiving, in being a victim that did not retaliate, Jesus broke the chains of victimization that had ravaged humanity since Adam and Eve. No longer would a person who had been victimized have to turn around and inflict that pain on another, making another victim. Instead, Jesus stopped this downward victimization spiral and showed another way.
If we are to be peacemakers—people whose hearts are ruled by Jesus Messiah—we must die to the unforgiveness we carry. Forgiveness is the fuel of the gospel, so we must internalize it and example it to those we are discipling.
This can feel like death, to let go of that grudge against another or yourself, but we must, and we must call those we love to do the same. Shalom waits on the other side.
I pray shalom over you, brothers and sisters. May we do the paradoxical work of simply showing up, calming storms in Jesus’ name, inviting into healing, flipping tables, and dying to our unforgiveness, and in so doing, see the peace of Christ rule in us and through us, for his glory.
 John 1:14, Message
 John 5:6
 John 2:15
 Luke 23:34, NIV
This post originally appeared at: Peace — The Bonhoeffer Project