On Sunday the 18th, we lit the fourth candle of the Advent Wreath – the Peace Candle. I’ve been blogging through each week (I’ve included the links at the bottom).
We talk about peace quite a bit this time of year. Numerous Christmas wishes end with the desire for “peace on earth.” It’s not exactly the easiest thing to wrap a put under the tree and throughout the week I’ve been thinking about why peace is so elusive for us.
When we think of the idea of “peace”, we tend to think of words like tranquility, calm, contentment and serenity. All very good synonyms and all qualities that I could use more of but when I think of the peace of Christ, I think of something that I can’t really find in a yoga class or in a cup of green tea.
(Wouldn’t that be great if it could though? The United Nations could lower embargoes on all dictators and government officials who didn’t practice yoga and drink green tea. Hmm, if I work 10 more minutes on this, I may be awarded the second-easiest to achieve Nobel Peace Prize ever.)
I know I’m not drinking enough green tea and I know my yoga is not only inconsistent but quite ugly (insert mental picture of thirty something who is really good at imitating a geriatric gym class) but the peace of Christ is much deeper than arms treaties and personal tranquility. As John Perkins says, “Peace is a world where nothing is broken and nothing is missing.”
Most of us consider ourselves to be peaceful in the non-violent sense but that is a very weak definition of peace (to not be at war with someone/something). The way we wage war in our social lives is not only by fighting but by breaking fellowship (Church, family, etc.). We break the peace every time we hurt, attack, ignore and abandon others.
Relational peace is more about being in harmony and in a connected goodness with someone. In the Christian tradition, “peace with God” is not about a clear conscience but about living in reconciliation and obedience with the God in the way of Jesus. And being at peace with ourselves is not about being content with our status of life and being (or conniving ourselves of being) “happy”, it’s much more about the identity we find in who we were created to be and what we are called to do. Peace is the result of a life of steadfast commitment to work things out, the result of letting God’s inner peace become God’s outer peace.
Biblical commentators have written extensively on what Jesus meant when he used the term “Shalom”. It generally meant the following: 1. Material prosperity 2. Moral goodness and integrity 3. Loving relationships with God, family, Israel, and all others.
A lot to be said there but I’d like to focus on the third point and point out that peace is rooted in love. Living in peace with each other was more about holding and keeping a loving relationship with others and not just being content with not fighting. And being in peace with God is about living in the salvation that Jesus came into this world to give us all.
“Shalom I leave with you, my shalom I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Week 1 – The Hope Candle
Week 2 – The Grace Candle
Week 3 – The Joy Candle