In English, the word “peace” conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew root slm, which means “to be complete” or “to be sound.” The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning”to be complete or whole” or “to live well.” The noun had many nuances, but can be grouped into four categories: (1) salom [l'v] as wholeness of life or body (i.e., health); (2) salom [l'v] as right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant (see “covenant of peace” in Num 25:12-13 ; Isa 54:10 ; Ezek 34:25-26 ) and, when related to Yahweh, the covenant was renewed or maintained with a “peace offering”; (3) salom [l'v] as prosperity, success, or fulfillment (see Lev 26:3-9 ); and (4) salom [l'v] as victory over one’s enemies or absence of war. Salom [l'v] was used in both greetings and farewells. It was meant to act as a blessing on the one to whom it was spoken: “May your life be filled with health, prosperity, and victory.” As an adjective, it expressed completeness and safety. In the New Testament, the Greek word eirene [eijrhvnh] is the word most often translated by the word “peace.” Although there is some overlap in their meanings, the Hebrew word salom [l'v] is broader in its usage, and, in fact, has greatly influenced the New Testament’s use of eirene [eijrhvnh].
OK, it’s one of those things that makes everyone around me say, “Really? You never realized that?” But I’ll go ahead and admit it: I’ve been wrong about peace.
That is, my image of peace has been way too limited, even when I knew what is quoted above, that the biblical concept of peace goes beyond absence of conflict.
But I hadn’t applied that thought, for example, to Jesus’ statement “Blessed are the peacemakers….” I was merely thinking of stopping war and stopping fights between people, a concept that is certainly included. But when you think about the fuller meaning of “peace” in the Bible, suddenly Jesus’ words take on a whole new dynamic. It’s actively creating something, not merely trying to stop something.
Help me flesh out this new understanding. What does “peacemaking” look like in light of the Bible’s use of the word?