Peace – Shalom

On the Biblical concept of peace

The Hebrew for peace, as many of us know, is shalom. This is usually understood as a state of completeness or wholeness in relationship, with nothing broken, nothing lacking. A prominent overtone of the word shalom is the idea of relational wrongs put right by paying restitution.

In the world of the Bible, if I do you wrong, I must pay restitution to restore shalom. The Old Testament laws use the verb shilleim, related to the word shalom, to refer to a wrongdoer recompensing his victim.

In the Bible, shalom is the shared satisfaction of a relationship in wholeness. As Biblical peace is about acts of peacemaking, the quality of your peace will depend on the history of your relationship. If you have been through much, and there has been much mutual forgiving, and submission to each other, the peace you share will be rich and deep. As Jesus said at the Pharisee’s house, how much you love depends on how much you have been forgiven.

The Bible teaches we are all at enmity with God because of sinfulness and sin, and that to restore peace, we owe more than we can pay. But it also teaches God loved us and sent his only Son to pay our price, who on the Cross took the punishment that brought us peace. The Cross is the final, dramatic demonstration of the Biblical concept of peace as reconciliation by payment of restitution for wrong, with Jesus paying the ultimate price for all our offence against God.

Biblical peace is not a bland, featureless state of bliss. It is not an empty silence; it is not merely the absence of trouble. It is enjoying the positive comforts of relationship in reconciliation with others, in the healing that comes from our deepening Union with the slaughtered, risen Prince of Peace.

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