Sar Shalom — Prince of Peace
Who hasn’t longed for peace, living in a world that is often so full of strife? The Hebrew word for peace, however, means much more than the absence of conflict or the end of turmoil. Shalom conveys not only a sense of tranquility but also of wholeness and completion. To enjoy shalom is to enjoy health, satisfaction, success, safety, well-being, and prosperity.
Though the New Testament does not directly call Jesus the Prince of Peace or Sar Shalom (SAR sha-LOME), this title from Isaiah has traditionally been associated with him as the one who brings peace to the world. Shortly after Christ was born, we hear angels proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Furthermore, Paul assured the Ephesian Christians saying of Jesus, “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
In Greek the word for peace is eirene. Like the Hebrew concept of shalom, the New Testament portrays peace as much more than the absence of conflict. Mark’s Gospel, for instance, links healing and peace by capturing Jesus’ words to a woman he has just healed. He tells her to “go in peace” (Mark 5:34). The New Testament further develops our understanding of peace by revealing Jesus as the source of all peace. Though we were alienated from God because of our sins, Jesus reconciled us, making peace through his blood. Peace with God produces peace with others and peace within ourselves. When Christ’s kingdom is fully established, all strife will cease, and those who belong to him will enjoy forever the fullness of peace—health, wholeness, well-being, tranquility, satisfaction, safety, prosperity, and perfect contentment.
Praying to Shar Shalom
A friend of mine, Christine Anderson, recently traveled to some of the most troubled countries on earth—Rwanda, the Congo, Lebanon, and Israel. Everywhere she went she met people who were haunted by violence, longing for one thing—peace. During her time in Israel, she visited Bethlehem. Approaching the separation wall that divides the West Bank from Israel, she expected to see the Palestinian side covered with angry graffiti. She was right about the graffiti but not about the angry part. In fact she was so startled by the expressions scrawled across the wall that she took several photographs. Here’s what was written across various portions of the wall:
To Dream of Peace
Give Peace a Chance
Jesus Said Peace I Give You (John 14:27)
Make Love, Not Wall
End This Madness
The most poignant image was that of a dove with an olive sprig in its mouth. Why so poignant? The dove is wearing a bullet proof vest!
Later Christine had a chance to meet with some professors at Bethlehem Bible College. For them, she points out, peace is inextricably linked to justice. They recoil at the way some Christians talk about peace, as though it is merely an interior experience or just about “Jesus and me.”
“Peace,” she says, “is something for which they work very hard and sacrifice a great deal in exceedingly concrete terms—dollars, careers, loved ones.” Her travels in Africa and the Middle East were both fascinating and disturbing. “I was overwhelmed,” she says, “with how very wrenching and difficult this thing of ‘making peace’ really is. It is not for the faint of heart.”
The peace we long for, the peace that the world is dying to have, is costly. It comes not by wishing but by sacrificing. It comes, in fact, in the shape of a cross.