The word peace is one of those words that is incredibly common and can mean a lot of different things. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word translated in our English Bibles is the Hebrew word "Shalom". This word and concept in the Hebrew tradition has a wealth of wisdom to be explored, but it's most simple definition is probably "to be complete or whole". You could even say that this word is best used as a verb, "to restore things to a state of wholeness and completion".
With this in mind, I encourage you to choose peace in this new year and embrace this rich meaning of the word. In my weaker and more unhealthy moments, I can strive for a type of peace that is a cheap imitation of true peace. This type of "peace" chooses to avoid all forms of conflict, ignore the emotions that I am feeling and that my loved ones are feeling, it turns a blind eye to the hard truths of life, it shoves down inner conflict and consistencies in my own life. This type of peace is merely an absence or ignorance of conflict, a papering over the cracks in the walls. When we choose this path the cracks only get wider and deeper.
Jesus once said "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called children of God (Mt.5:9NLT)" I love this translation of Jesus' word because it reveals the truth that choosing Shalom takes real work. Being a peacemaker isn't a position of weakness or neutrality, being a peace maker means being willing to put in the work of reconciliation, healing, and bridge building. This type of peace is a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives because God's Spirit empowers us to embody this peaceful action even in our weakness. It takes strength that the Holy Spirit provides to be honest with yourself and acknowledge that your actions and choices have left you unwell and unhealthy and it is time to make some choices that will bring about wholeness and peace. It takes the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to see brokenness and injustice in our communities in and in our world and know how to work for peace in way that brings healing and justice.
Working for peace does not always mean your life will be conflict free. In fact, Richard Rohr always reminds us that the life of a bridge builder is challenging because "bridge builders get walked on from both sides". That is why I think Jesus identifies peacemakers as "children of God". God chose, in Jesus, to step into the messy and real conflict of human existence and bring wholeness and healing. If we are followers of Jesus we are called to live this same incarnational life.
Personally, this is not an easy choice for me. I really enjoy my peace and quiet, I prefer a comfortable status quo in my life. This year I hope you will join me in choosing and pursing peace within ourselves, in our families, and in our communities. It's ok that it is not easy work, we were never called to do it on our own. We have the Spirit of God within us, and we have each other on this journey.
"My peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don't be troubled or afraid."
-Jesus in John 14:27
P.S.- If you want to take a deeper dive into the concept of "shalom" I got some of my info from the Bible Project' videos and resources on this, you should check it out too!