In this modern Western culture, no one fails to be busy. Think about how many times in the last month when asked how your week has been, you’ve replied with something like, “it’s been a bit crazy”.
Same with the phrase, “I’m just a bit tired”. Everyone seems to be ‘just a bit tired.’ And this time of the year is no exception.
On a broader level, we know that the world can be an unfriendly place. We know that it holds dark realities. We know the existence of war, famine, poverty. We’ve seen hopelessness. We’ve felt helplessness. We’ve been in discussion with people where they’ve shared that they simply cannot watch the news anymore. Compassion fatigue is as real as ever.
Bottom line? People are tired. We are tired. It is perfectly natural to yearn for the chaos of life to cease and give way to rest. We want rest.
But I tell you – this is not the same as Peace.
Whilst our modern use of the word Peace is synonymous with ideas like ‘quiet’ (peaceful), ‘without disruption’ and ‘rest’ – this doesn’t quite encapsulate the peace of the Bible.
If Peace were a person, I think our modern concept of them would be a smiling monk, forever in prayer, always serene. Nothing would phase them. They are untouched by the worries of the world.
But in fact, if Peace were a person, they would be incredibly hard working. They would be a force to be reckoned with, constantly trying to bring people together, or talk some sense into us, as we stubbornly resist. They are not about escaping the worries of this world, they’re about diving right into them.
I think this because the Peace of the Bible, while it can be a state of calm, is better described as ‘vehement goodness’. For this is how God describes Creation at the end of the Genesis 1 poem. Our common translations describe it as ‘very good’ but the Hebrew is closer to ‘vehemently, abundantly good’ – or, if you will, ‘down-right awesome.’
Seen in this way, Peace is never an individual experience. It is fundamentally relational. The Creation we find in Genesis 1 is one where humanity’s relationship with God and the rest of Creation is vehemently good. Reality and purpose are the same – the relationships are what they are intended to be.
When the audience of Paul’s letters heard the word ‘eirene’ (Greek for Peace), they weren’t thinking they needed to be docile, smiling monks – they heard that they were to be people who were marked by a life committed to restoring things as God had intended them to be.
When Paul tells Jesus follower’s in Colossae:
“Let the peace of Christ rule your heart since members of one body you were called to peace” (Col 3:15), he didn’t mean that Jesus followers had to go around feeling restful all the time; nor that they were called to lives without disruption, pain or difficulty.
As Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were real examples of God putting his plan into motion – a plan to bring about true Peace, where all relationships between humanity, Creation and God are vehemently good – we too are called to Peace. We too are called to the same work of restoration.
Great…’ you’re thinking, ‘more work!’
But you know what’s awesome? In and amongst the challenge to live lives dedicated to bringing about Christ’s peace into this world, we are also given the gracious gift of Rest. Just because Rest and Peace aren’t exactly the same thing, does not mean that Rest shouldn’t have a rightful place in the rhythm of the Christian walk.
There are most definitely times where we need to hide under the shelter of God’s wings, and that solace is available to you. But if we aren’t able to discern between the two, we may find ourselves always asking for anything uncomfortable, anything that brings us tension or difficulty, to be taken away. We may pray that the feelings that let us know there is a world crying for Peace be quietened and sedated.
We may find ourselves asking for Rest when God is asking us to take up our call and do the work of Peace. Remember, God took six days to create his Creation of Peace, and only after that did He rest.
True Peace -- the restoration of relationship, wholeness, healing -- takes serious prayer and real moral effort. But the paradox of committing to God’s work of creating a world of Peace is that it will anchor you. You will find calm amidst a storm, but because you know that God’s plan is that the storm must inevitably cease.
Remember, our Gospel is not about a Christ that escaped brokenness, but a Christ that demolished the powers that want humanity to continue to live in its brokenness. God is not on the defensive, but on the offensive!
In the same way, letting the Peace of Christ rule in our hearts means that we are not waiting to escape such a wretched world, but our lives will be a witness to God’s active resurrection power, breaking through and renewing Creation, so that it once again can be ‘vehemently good.’
This Christmas, would you spend some time getting to know both Rest and Peace anew?
If you seek Rest, you may want to reflect on verses such as Matthew 11:28 if you’re feeling at the end of your tether this Christmas season.
Or you may want to revisit some verses that mention Peace (e.g. Col 3:15, Phil 4:7, Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27, 2 Thess 3:16) with a different understanding of biblical Peace.
I pray that in doing both you will feel rested, but more importantly, you will have fresh purpose. Fresh motivation to join God’s work in bringing about Peace for Creation.
This Christmas, may you worship the Prince of Peace. True Peace.
Yen is a Tearfund Supporter from South Australia. She is a qualified lawyer and is currently interning in the Philippines with anti-slavery organisation International Justice Mission.
Yen loves the fact Christians are in the business of hope and restoration and simply tries to ‘watch and pray’ - to look for opportunities to join in where God’s love and renewing power is at work.