I was asked to give a talk about ‘inner peace’ to a group this week. In the end I simply did a word study on the different ways that the word ‘peace’ is used in the New Testament. It’s not exhaustive, but it shows how different the various meanings of the word are. Some of the meanings seem even contradictory, but I’m sure there is a way of synthesizing them all and coming to some ‘meta-definition’ that makes ultimate sense of everything!
I’m just copying the scripture quotations I used below, without any analysis. You can use them, as I did with the group, for your meditation and lectio divina.
PEACE AS A PROMISE
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon* us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,*praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*
PEACE AS A GIFT OF CHRIST
39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians,* no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter* said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ 46But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.48He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
PEACE AS NOT PROMISED
34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
[Cf. Luke 12: 49 ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!]
NOT AS THE WORLD THINKS
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate,* the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
PEACE AS RECONCILIATION WITH GOD
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we* have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access* to this grace in which we stand; and we* boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we* also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
PEACE AS RECONCILIATION WITH OTHERS
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body*through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.* 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
PEACE AS INNER TRUST/TRANQUILITY
4 Rejoice* in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.* 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
PEACE AS SOMETHING WE OFFER TO OTHERS
1 Cor 1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord* and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
After this the Lord appointed seventy* others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
PEACE AS SOMETHING WE MAKE/BUILD
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
PEACE EVEN IN PERSECUTION
32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’