"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…and he will be called…Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end." Isaiah 9:6-7
The word for peace in the original language of the Old Testament is Shalom. In the Hebrew language, 'shalom' means to be safe, whole, complete, friendly, good. The prophet Isaiah, about 700 years before the birth of Christ, foretold the coming of the Messiah with this description: one who would bring true peace (shalom) to the inhabitants of earth. Shalom is not just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of a system of living that produces life, goodness, completeness and brings great hope. Shalom does this by bringing together moving pieces to create a working together so that all who live in that community can benefit.
The context from which Isaiah spoke these prophetic words was a dark and difficult time for the nation of Israel. They suffered severe attacks from their enemies. Homes, land, cities were ravaged, and many were taken into exile. Imagine watching all you own going up in smoke, watching innocent friends and neighbors being killed. Peace or shalom was like a faraway star in a dark sky.
Life — not only then, but today as well — is a complex array of situations, relationships, successes, and failures. Jesus stated in John 16 that in this life we will have trouble. He also said that in him is peace. Not a "peace" like the world gives (which fails when one doesn't get their way), but the true peace that the prophet Isaiah spoke of — shalom. It is a peace that partners with what the Bible calls unconditional love and brings a togetherness that is unshakeable.
This fall I had a conversation with a woman who moved to Prineville a year prior in 2020. She and her husband had taken on a retail business and had been serving the people of Crook County for about a year. By her own admission, she was completely exhausted and distraught. The source of her woes was a disgruntled public. So many who came into her store were either upset that they had a sign on their door asking patrons to wear a mask, or irate over the fact that so few in the store were wearing masks. I wish that I could have poured a large bucket of shalom over her. I grieved for a few moments with her over the lack of peace in our community and prayed with her for peace.
Narcissism happens when we place our wants above the needs of the world around us. A friend of mine said recently, "Brian, if I mistreat my wife, I am mistreating God." In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when we do good or evil for others, it is as if we are doing it for him. I get to choose in every interaction: will I bring in a shovelful of manure, or will I pour over others a cup of blessing? I am not suggesting that we deny hurt and pain within or that we remain silent in the face of injustice. What I am saying is that we can find life-giving ways to process pain and sort through the chaos in a healthy way — as opposed to passing it on.
Just a few nights ago, our church had a float in the Christmas parade. As we rounded the corner of Harwood and 3rd and followed the procession, I was overwhelmed by the number of Prineville residents who had come together to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. There were smiles, handshakes, waves, and singing. My faith was restored as I witnessed peace and goodwill being shared by all. A police officer spoke to one of our members and stated that this was the largest gathering for a parade that he had seen in decades. I was reminded of the words of Paul: "spirit of unity and the bond of peace." It was happening in our COVID-shaken city.
I don't have to wait for complete agreement with someone to have peace. Peace or shalom is a choice that I get to make every day regardless of our differences. When I encounter an employee in a retail store or a server at a restaurant or a gas station attendant, I choose what kind of spirit I will leave behind. Will I be the advent of peace or the advent of brokenness in this community?
I can honestly say that the past two years have been the most challenging of my fifty-two years. I'm sure that you, dear reader, have endured confusing and disturbing times as well. In the spirit of the Prince of Peace, I invite us all to usher in the advent of a new system that is heavenly. Let us be agents of the Messiah's peace. That is what He came for. For unto us a child is born, and His is a peace that will never end.
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