Peace: Freedom from disturbance; a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.
Ever since Eve took the fruit in the Garden of Eden, our broken, sinful world and all that's in it have fallen short of experiencing complete peace. And in failing to experience complete peace, we have also minimized the power and meaning of the word.
Today, the word peace is often used to describe the absence of conflict. People talk about wanting world peace, inner peace, or peace with friends or family, but if we look to the Bible, the words for peace depict much more than just the absence of what is bad; it also means there is something better to take its place.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom. As a noun, shalom means "complete" or "whole," and as a verb, it means "to make complete" or "restore." Life is complex, having many moving parts and pieces, and in order to be at true peace, not one thing can be incomplete or out of line. But, because of sin, our lives are constantly out of alignment, making us broken, and reminding us that we need to be restored to completeness.
And Jesus is the only one who can restore us in this way.
The Greek word for peace in the New Testament is eirene. Knowing the Bible to be one complete story, we see how shalom and eirene are connected. Biblical peace is designed to be more than just the absence of conflict. When kingdoms make shalom in the Old Testament, it means they not only stop fighting, but they also start working together for mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, this perfect peace was rarely achieved by Israel's kings. That is why the prophet Isaiah said he was looking forward to a future king—the "Prince of Shalom"—who would right all wrongs, heal all that has been broken, restore God's people to Himself, and bring peace with no end (Isaiah 9:5–6). And it is later through the announcement of Jesus' birth that the Bible says the arrival of eirene is here, for it is through His perfect life, death, and resurrection that we as sinful humans are able to be restored to our perfect Creator and be made whole once again.
As we celebrate Advent this year, may we each turn away from the false, temporary senses of peace and turn to the one true eirene—Jesus (Ephesians 2:14–15). Jesus is our peace. He is the whole, complete, sinless human we all failed to be, and when we are covered by His sacrifice, made righteous, and follow Him, we are able to follow Him in being people of peace on Earth.
To learn more on biblical peace and to access kid-friendly resources to teach your children about peace this Christmas, visit bellevue.org/family and download the Advent Celebration booklet from Fight for Your Family.