Oct
05
2011

As we con­tinue to look at the fruit of the Spirit, today we look at the char­ac­ter­is­tic of peace.

Peace (Greek, eirene; Antonym: strife and hostility)

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, strangely, peace may be the one that is most challenging to understand in terms of the meaning. When you ask someone what peace is, it can conjure up lots of images—the peace sign, a dove with an olive branch in its beak, or the infamous words, “Peace, Dude!” The word peace comes from the Greek word eirene; it is a unique and potent word and is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom. Similar to the Old Testament concept of peace, it expresses the idea of wholeness or completeness. It is when the soul is unstirred and unaffected by outward circumstances or pressures. The word images the binding of two things that have been separated and therefore, one can think of the common expression of a person who “has it all together.” This would describe the person who knows peace.

In the New Testament, right at the start of the gospel story, we are introduced to this distinct word as the angels use it to announce the birth of the Messiah:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth eirene among those whom he favors. (Luke 2:14)

Throughout the Bible, this verse reiterates a truth over and over about the fruit of eirene—it comes solely from God. As Isaiah concludes: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) You can’t just make peace happen and you can’t just conjure it up—the Prince of eirene has to become your peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Alongside this, the Bible also unequivocally states that how we live our lives can either bring peace into our lives or drive it away.  “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) At another point in the Psalms, we poetically find it describing the relationship between righteousness and peace being held together as if in the union of a kiss (Psalm 85:10). That picture is important because it shows us that how we live our lives inevitably determine how peaceful they will be as well. How we live our lives on a daily basis, how we act and what we do, can bring peace or also push it away. If we act in accordance to God’s desires for our lives, our lives will be marked peace. When I think of it in this way, on the reverse, if we are determined to live life on our terms and not God’s—our life will be chaotic, difficult, and it will seem as if nothing is going the way we want.

But when you have peace, what does that look like in real time—what does it look like to live out eirene? Similar to chara or joy, this characteristic strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person exhibits peace in their life, they have a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct themselves peacefully, even in circumstances that would normally be very trying or upsetting. Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break them, a person who is possessed by peace is stable and poised.  To help you envision the word eirene, it is the root for the English word ‘serene’ which conveys the idea of utter calm and being at ease in any situation. When life is dire and disordered, there is a voice within that states, Everything is going to be okay. I remember a time in my own life when I was facing numerous challenges and I wanted to cave into fear and despair. As I was driving down a busy street one day, a sign caught my eye. It simply read: And this too shall pass. When I read those words, I remembered the peace that God had given me and I began to ease into the truth that he was going to take care of me even through the trying situation I was facing. At that moment, I decided to rest; I decided to discover the peace he had given me. I literally put on peace.

Questions you can ask yourself: how peaceful is your life? How well do you handle challenges under pressure? Do people regularly characterize you as being stable and poised, especially when facing difficulty or stress? To be a peaceful person, do you need to deal with issues of anger, bitterness and resentment in your life? Does your life live out the Proverb, “A heart at peace gives life to the body?” (14:30) To have a spirit of peace, we need to be on right terms with God—are there areas in your life which need change to make your life more peaceful? Are there poor choices that you are making in your life that you need to rectify and change? Thomas à Kempis is quoted as saying, “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” This being the case, what do you need to do to change in your life to become more peaceful?


In: Spiritual Formation
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