Vol. 2 Issue 4
January 24, 2008
The weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
â€œBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no lawâ€ (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Roadmap to Peace
George W. Bush and I were in Israel earlier this month â€¦ not together. But I did see his airplane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion. He came over as part of an eight day trip to bring peace to the Middle East. I appreciate his optimism, but eight days isnâ€™t much time.
Like I usually do before writing about a particular subject I research the definitions of key words to get a feel for what they really mean. This weekâ€™s subject, â€œPeace,â€ wasnâ€™t any different. Websterâ€™s defines â€œpeaceâ€ as: â€œthe condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting//the end of a state of war//the treaty that marks the end of war//friendly relations between individuals, untroubled by disputes.â€
â€œThe condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting.â€ That sounds reasonable. Thatâ€™s what everybody wants for the Middle East, right? Thatâ€™s why President Bush went over there, right? He wants peace in the Middle East. Thatâ€™s what I want too.
I get most of my instructions from a Book that has a lot to say about Israel and a lot to say about peace. Itâ€™s the single most authoritative work on Israel and on peace ever written. As a matter of fact, it includes a Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East; itâ€™s been in there for nearly two thousand years. Iâ€™m talking about the Bible, of course, and I wonder why more politicians donâ€™t consult it as they work toward peace in the Middle East.
The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek originally. And since thatâ€™s the Book Iâ€™m studying to understand how to achieve peace (whether itâ€™s in the Middle East or in my own heart) I figured Iâ€™d better understand the definition of peace in those languages.
â€œEireneâ€ is the Greek word for peace in the New Testament. Thereâ€™s another word, â€œsigao,â€ translated peace in English but it means â€œbe quietâ€ or â€œhold your tongueâ€ as in â€œkeep your peace.â€ Not the kind of peace weâ€™re looking for right now.
Eirene, to the secular Greeks back in New Testament days, meant about the same as â€œpeaceâ€ means to us as defined by Webster, â€œthe absence of war.â€ The New Testament writers, though, drew on their Hebrew roots to make eirene mean something deeper then just â€œnot fighting.â€
The Hebrew word for â€œpeaceâ€ is probably the best known Hebrew word, by Jews and Gentiles alike, around the world. Itâ€™s the word, â€œShalom.â€ â€œShalomâ€ means more than just â€œthe absence of war.â€ According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary; â€œIt was not a negative or passive concept but involved wholeness and completeness. The related verb could mean to â€˜repayâ€™ or â€˜fulfill a vowâ€™ and so referred to completing or repairing a relationship. A related adjective could be used to describe something as â€˜uninjured, safe, complete, peaceable.â€™â€
So, â€œShalomâ€ peace means â€œwholeness, completeness, that somethingâ€™s already been paid for or that a vow has been fulfilled.â€ It means that â€œa relationship has been completed or repaired.â€ Wow. Thatâ€™s a lot more than just â€œnot fighting.â€
Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about the Greek words for â€œloveâ€? The Greeks never really used the word, agapao in secular society. Agapao referred to Godâ€™s sacrificial love in response to our need; it was a word and a definition reserved for the Christians.
â€œEireneâ€(peace) was treated the same way. The secular Greeks limited its definition to â€œthe absence of war.â€ Early Christians, however, had a deeper meaning for â€œeireneâ€; drawn from their Hebraic roots and their relationship with the resurrected Christ, who became â€œpeaceâ€ for them.
â€œPeace,â€ to the early Christians (and hopefully to us later Christians) meant much more than â€œthe absence of warâ€; it was a relationship with the One who reconciles what is broken so that it is once again whole, once again as it should be, once again at peace.
Peace is a relationship. Itâ€™s reconciliation between God and man. The relationship between God and man was broken when our father Adam chose his own way. Peace is a state of being whole; that state of being was broken in the Garden. Fixing that broken relationship, that broken state of being, required that a price be paid.
Jesus Christ, Godâ€™s Son, understood the broken relationship and the price for making it whole again. Through his death on the cross, He made payment for Adamâ€™s sin debt, providing the way for Adamâ€™s children to be reconciled, be at peace, with God; their relationship restored.
Broken relationships between men are only reflections and symptoms of the broken relationship between God and man. Likewise, peace between men is only possible when man has come to a place of peace with God. The one key relationship must be restored in order to make restoring other relationships possible.
Hostility between Jews and Arabs is no new thing. It began nearly four thousand years ago, between competing sons of the same father. One son, the eldest and rightful heir in earthly terms was tossed out in the cold when his younger half-brother was conceived. The younger son, the child of a promise, was given the birthright and the blessing of his father, which in turn, was the birthright and blessing of God. Ironically, the story repeated itself a generation later between twin brothers.
This animosity between brothers grew into an animosity between people; between the sons of Isaac and Jacob and the sons of Ishmael and Esau; between Jews and Arabs. The relationship, broken between brothers thousands of years ago, prevents peace between their children today.
The only way thereâ€™s ever going to be peace between the Jews and the Arabs is to restore the relationship that was broken so long ago. But thatâ€™s not going to happen â€¦ not until another, more important relationship is restored.
In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul explained this peace process; how Christ mended the relationship between God and man, and in doing so not only made peace between God and man, but also a way of peace between all men.
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of Godâ€™s holy people. You are members of Godâ€™s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.”