Passing the Peace
Growing up in the Catholic church, I always looked forward to the point in each Mass when the priest would invite us to turn towards others nearby in order to “Pass the Peace,” saying to strangers, family members, and friends: “Peace Be With You.” Perhaps you hold similar memories from your faith tradition.
“Peace be with you.” These were Jesus’ words to the disciples following his resurrection, and hearken as well to the greetings used by the Apostle Paul and other writers of the New Testament. Paul opens his letters to the Ephesians saying, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But peace can be quite elusive, both interpersonally and even internally. We need peace now more than ever before, and the availability of what many call “inner peace” is a desirable condition described by Berkeley Institute for Living as “… contentment and balance that doesn’t change as outside circumstances change.”
Over the years, I have learned to pay attention to when my body is holding tension… say in my forehead, neck, or shoulders. My brain may know that it is well with my soul, but no one has told my shoulders, which I suddenly realize have been inching their way towards my ears.
I recall driving between appointments and realizing my body was carrying a ton of stress. My mind had reviewed the circumstances and had re-committed to trusting God with the matters at hand, but apparently no one told my shoulders, which were now unnaturally close to my ears. They – my shoulders – were convinced otherwise… Convinced that this was a threatening situation and warranted great tension and anxiety.
It seems funny now, but I remember thinking I needed to convince my deltoids and trapezius that all would be well. I began to say out loud to my own body, “Peace be with you!” I needed to pass the peace, even just to myself.
I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we need to pass – transmit – peace more than we do right now. To each other, to strangers, and, yes, sometimes even to ourselves.
For this month’s focus on Healthy Leaders NEXT, we are going to explore what it means both to receive peace and to transmit it.
The Vision of Shalom
The ancient concept of Peace (“Shalom” in Hebrew, and “Eirini” in Greek) holds a much more comprehensive idea than merely a lack of interpersonal conflict, though of course it includes that.
From a biblical perspective, shalom could be thought of in this way: Shalom is the way things ought to be. Shalom describes the ideal human experience as it was designed by God.
In his delightfully accessible and winsomely convicting book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, theologian Cornelius Plantinga explains this powerful vision of the biblical imagination around shalom:
“In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.
Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
– Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be
This is the “rich state of affairs” that humans are designed to flourish within, along all the lines of flourishing as noted through the research with Barna, Gloo, and the Harvard Flourishing Project.
Anatomy of Peace
The interior, soul-level condition when this rich state of affairs is experienced could be described as INNER PEACE. And the incredible reality of life in the Kingdom of God is that, even when surrounding circumstances are dire and grim, Jesus moves through the walls of our self-protection and offers us his kind of peace.
The promise of shalom in daily life is that we can and will experience INNER PEACE no matter what. As the lyrics of “Firm Foundation (He Won’t)” by Maverick City Music remind us, “I’ve still got joy in chaos, I’ve got peace that makes no sense.” This is the sure testimony of life under the care of our Good Shepherd: Life anchored to the unseen.
Not only for our own sakes, but for the testimony and gospel we knowingly or unknowingly convey to everyone who ever interacts with us, it is vital that we walk and move and contend and suffer and sacrifice and lead and follow with actual inner peace.
Today I want to invite you into an interactive experience on the topic of PEACE. This follows the framework of our free monthly Semi-Silent retreats at Soul Care, which you can learn more about here.
But for now, if the topic of peace is important to you – and I believe it should be important to all of us – please set aside at least 30 minutes and dive into a journey between your own soul and God. May this spur significant interaction and deep restoration of your own soul today.
Begin with these questions:
A Different Kind of Peace
Jesus offers a different kind of peace to his followers…
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27 NIV
- What kind of peace do you think the world gives?
- In what way(s) have you experienced the kind of peace that the world gives, or has it been elusive?
- Have you encountered the peace that Jesus “leaves” and “gives”?
- What was that experience like?
- What has been your experience of God’s peace recently?
- What do you feel in your body right now as it relates to peace? Do you notice any tension? Shoulders, forehead, neck? Headache, fatigue, or more?
- What would you desire your sense of peace to be in the future?
- How does that desired future experience of peace compare to the world’s peace versus Jesus’s peace? How would you, or will you, know the difference?
Following the resurrection, and only following the resurrection, this is the greeting Jesus gave when re-connecting with his disciples.
“Peace be with you”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. – John 20:19-20
“Peace be with you”
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. – John 20:21-22
“Peace be with you”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” – John 20:24-27
“Peace be with you”
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” – Luke 24:36-39
- What might it have meant for God – in and as the resurrected Christ Jesus – to speak this blessing of peace over his disciples in this context? They were under threat, afraid and unsure of the future.
- What circumstances do you currently feel closed in by? Are there leadership challenges you simply cannot untangle? Are there financial constraints that you simply cannot overcome? Have you had relational misses that are too far gone to repair? What describes the “Upper Room” that you find yourself in today?
- What would it mean to you for Jesus to “show up” in the interior spaces of this current situation?
- What would it mean for him to breathe on you, right now? Enter an imaginative interaction with Jesus now. Feel His breath next to yours.
A Path to Peace
In upcoming articles, we will explore key ways to specifically support your experience of INNER PEACE.
He (God) will keep in perfect peace (shalom shalom) those whose minds are steadfast, for they trust in Him. – Isaiah 26:3
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Peace as a “Referee” (Refuse the drama)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15
…fruit of the Spirit is…. peace…. – Galatians 5:22
Join us for this important journey!