“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” –1 Corinthians 1:3
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7
“Peace 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.” –John 14:27
Peace is talked about many times in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Practically every writer of Scripture has something to say on the subject. Every Sunday we wish peace for one another in worship. What is it about peace that makes it such an integral part of our worship, our faith, and our lives?
Peace is a way of seeing the world, a way in which our faith in God helps us stay calm in a turbulent world. When God is present with us and in us, when we put our trust in God, we know that we are in God’s hands and don’t need to spend our time worrying about what to do or what will happen. We know that we belong to God, and he will take care of us. This inner peace is ours no matter what happens in the world around us; it is a gift from God, and beyond our understanding or ability to explain. It is something we deny ourselves too often, when we shove our faith into a box marked “only for Sundays” and try to seek fulfillment in endless busyness instead of in God. It is something we ignore when we focus on our fears and anxieties instead of on God’s promise of love and forgiveness.
Peace is also a way of relating to others, a way of treating others with love and justice. It happens when we act with Christ-centered hospitality and respect, when we air disagreements honestly and openly with charity and compassion instead of storing up grudges and disagreements and bitterness. It can take hard work to practice peace in the midst of conflict, but it can also bring great rewards of growth and harmony.
When we wish each other the peace of the Lord each Sunday, as Christ wished it to us and as Paul wished it to his congregations in every letter, we’re not just mouthing pious good wishes. We are affirming that God is truly present in us and in the congregation, that his presence brings that peace that surpasses all human understanding. We are reminding one another that God’s peace isn’t just some abstract pie-in-the-sky proposition, but a present reality with us here, now, in this place. And we are promising that we will reflect that peace in our lives together in Christ.