Peace I leave with you; my peace 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
In countries where conflict is a daily occurrence, the desire and quest for peace is strong, particularly among victims caught in between the conflict. The experience of conflict in Hong Kong over the last few months has brought this into stark relief: what was a generally peaceful and safe city has been turned upside down in turmoil, hence the resultant prayers for peace have been urgent and heartfelt.
When we talk of or pray for peace, what do we normally mean – that conflict will end, tranquillity will ensue and daily security will be restored? If so, then peace means an absence of conflict and most would agree with this. Or, in the midst of the noise of construction (a common feature of life in Hong Kong) or when overexcited children, at last, go to bed – we also long for peace – normally meaning the absence of noise (not the absence of children!). So, in effect, peace means the absence of something and this can turn prayers for peace into shallow wishful thinking rather than real hope.
This is the opposite of what Jesus means in the verse above – He means the presence of something.
Peace in scripture is associated with the Hebrew word shalom, now a common greeting in Israel. Shalom is a lovely word meaning much more than the absence of conflict or noise: it means wholeness, completion, and fulfilment. It is a peace that comes from being in the Presence of God – a peace of the soul. This takes us to a whole different level of understanding of peace as something that only God can give. When Paul says in Philippians 4:7, “then the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” he is praying that we will dwell in and practice the presence of God. The peace that Jesus and Paul speak of is shalom and is a manifestation of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit – it is something rooted in the very heart of God and should be deeply reflected in our lives, not just our prayers, especially at this time in HK.
Let us practice true peace by:
- Thanking God for being the God of peace; and,
- Asking God to help us experience Jesus’s promised peace and fill us so our words and lives radiate His peace to the world.