Peace is ever elusive in our world. When hostilities seem to die down in one region, they pop up somewhere else. We don’t see action from ground troops with guns so much, now we read of the potential of drone wars done by remote control joysticks. We even begin to fear the specter of cyber-warfare. This very morning analysts are trying to determine who hacked the computers of the banking system of South Korea, and whether or not this might be understood as an act of war. About 2,600 years ago, Jeremiah warned of those who claim, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace,” and these words ring true today.
As we approach Holy Week, I would like to ponder a profound statement in Ephesians 2:14. In discussion of the reconciliation and unity between Jews and Gentiles made possible by God’s plan and Jesus’ sacrifice, Paul says,
He is our peace.
The power of this declaration has been diluted and even distorted by the NIV2011’s rendering, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us.” Over-interpretation! Let Paul’s words ring loud and true: HE IS OUR PEACE. But what does he mean by this?
I am indebted to the great Belgian Catholic scholar Edward Schillebeeckx for giving me new insights into what this means in his massive volume, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord. Schillebeeckx refers to the Jewish background of Paul’s statement, to the meaning of the Hebrew word for peace, shalom. Schillebeeckx points to the situations found in Scriptures like Exodus 21-33-34:
If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restitution (shalom), giving money to its owner, but keeping the dead animal.
In order to reconcile, to restore the relationship, the owner of the pit (the one at fault) shall “make restitution” for the dead animal. Literally this is “make peace” using the verb form of shalom. NLT: “pay in full.” This has the sense of “satisfaction.” In order for our relationship with God to be restored, to be made whole, “peace” must be made. In order for the division between Jews and Gentiles to be removed, “peace” must be made. When we have peace with God, we may have peace between any other human being who also recognizes this peace. So Christ does not simply bring peace. Christ is our peace.
Next week we will reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross, the via dolorosa that changed everything in human history. There are many, many aspects to this, but may we not forget the sacrificial nature of his act, serving as our shalom for all time so that we might be reconciled to God.
You might want to refresh yourself today by listening to a simple song version of this that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s by clicking here.
Nebraska Christian College