The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

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A biblical word study of the word peace yields 2 main results.  The Greek Word for peace is eirene.  Eirene occurs in each of the books of the NT except 1 John.  In the LXX, eirene translates the traditional Jewish greeting “Shalom.”  Shalom is the key Hebrew word in the OT.  Shalom means “peace, completeness, welfare, and health.”  It is a key term in the OT.  Even today, Jews greet one another with the words “mah shalom,” meaning literally, “What is your peace?” an idiom that means “How are you doing?”  Shalom is used frequently in the OT (283 times).

Shalom means more than the English word peace.  Shalom means also wholeness, the perfecting of all that is broken or incomplete.  The biblical sense of peace is more than the absence of conflict or confusion.  Ultimately peace is the restoration of Creation to the state in which God left it when he rested from his work.

As we think about peace as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, am I a source of anxiety in my world?  Edwin Friedman wrote a book entitled, A Failure of Nerve:  Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.  Friedman’s concern is with the crisis of leadership in our culture.  This crisis of leadership is found throughout our culture:  in national, state, and local politics; in the legal system; in schools; in buisnesses; in churches, and religious institutions; and in families.

Friedman applies families systems theory to leadership in all kinds of institutions.  His key premise is that almost all problems are a result of anxiety in the system.  For example in a family, the anxiety in the system will create a triangular system:  father and mother against child, for exmple.  Or commonly, mother, father and adultery.  How that anxiety manifests itself are varied.  In our current political system, that anxiety has manifested itself in “fear of the other.”

What is required to heal the system is a particular kind of leader, which Friedman calls a “well-differentiated leader.”  He seeks to show that the leader’s strength is not in what he or she does (method or technique), but rather in who the leader is (character and presence).  The well-differentiated leader is able to separate him or herself from efforts at triangulation, while at the same time remaining in the system.

It seems to me that the well-differentiated leader will be one who demonstrates shalom:  a wholeness and completeness that permits them to stay unmoved by the anxiety in the system in such a way that they are able to act.  The leader who possesses shalom is able to influence the system toward shalom.  

How does this apply to the Christian?  I would say that the Christian following Christ is moving on to perfection (as Wesley would say).  Moving on to perfection means that we are cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.  The Holy Spirit is working to conform us to the image of Christ.  And the well-differentiated person would be that person who to some degree has become conformed to the image of Christ, especially in respect to shalom.  

How strong is my sense of shalom?  How can I be an instrument of God’s shalom?  How can I communicate shalom, the peace that God intends for all of us?  How can I nurture within myself the confiction that in the end God will restore shalom to creation, such that there will be a “new heaven and a new earth?”  (Stookey, p. 43)

Most holy and undivided Trinity:  within the complexity of your Being there is shalom in Oneness; yet from shalom flows forth the diversity of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), and all taken together is shalom.  Share with us the mystery of your shalom, that we despite our differences, may not be at odds, but rather at peace (shalom), whole as you are whole, trusting in your reconciliating love.  Amen.  (Stookey, p. 44)

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