By Devon Dick
RECENTLY, THE Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) climaxed its General Assembly at the National Arena in front of thousands. Living in Peace is the two-year (2012-2014) theme for the JBU. And at this closing worship service, president of the JBU, Luke Shaw, similar to his predecessor Cawley Bolt, challenged the congregation to live in peace.
According to Wikipedia, the Hebrew concept of shalom has the meaning of peace, completeness and prosperity. It can refer to peace between two persons. It is being able to work well with persons. It is not to think the same things but rather thinking together in order to arrive at a consensus. It is to be agreeable in spirit, even when we disagree with another person's position.
For Christians, peace should be between man and God as well as among humans. It is to be in a right relationship with God, having experienced forgiveness of sins and making a commitment to loving God fully and loving our neighbour as ourselves. To have peace is to have a sense of completeness and fullness. It is to be contented. (Phil 4). It is to lack nothing, acknowledging "The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing" Ps 23:1. Peace is about material sufficiency.
Persons need first to receive peace as the gift of God by being reconciled to God. As Romans chapter 5 verse 10 states "... when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son ..." This signified the end of hostility between an individual and God and the heralding of peace. But God is not hostile to us. Rather, it is we who are unfriendly to God. Sin deforms our lives and causes us to believe that we can get on well without God by being antagonistic towards God. However, many persons have realised that we will find peace when our lives and personalities rest in God.
For the Christian, peace is when we have complete confidence in Christ, our saviour, during times of disappointments and confusion, that God our creator is in charge of world affairs and all will be well through the strength of the Spirit who gives peace which is beyond all human understanding. Personal peace with God is a stepping stone for peace in the world.
Peace is a non-negotiable condition for life in this world. Therefore, without peace, meaningful existence is impossible. If there is no peace, then nations will be at war with each other and civil wars among countries will be our lot. We are suffering from the lack of peace and human life is being wasted and lost; almost a thousand each year.
Peace is necessary for stability in community. The Bible asserts the social nature of peace. In Gen 13:8 Abraham says to his nephew Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders, for we are kindred". Solitariness is not possible, so for the individual, living in community and society is inescapable. Human beings need to be in relationship with others in order to realise their humanity. So although we are individuals, our identity finds completeness in relating to others. From that perspective we must come to terms with the inequalities and injustices caused by institutional evil. We must, as God's people, change the way our society is organised and structured. Therefore, Christians should become involved in politics, which is the way we organise our community, prioritise our resources and how we treat the most vulnerable. To be engaged politically means an interest in the dispensation of justice, in the distribution of taxation, our economic policy and governance practices. Society must be ordered on equitable laws and justice.
May we, as we celebrate Lent, experience peace which is beyond human understanding.
Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church, St. Andrew. He is also the author of 'The Cross and The Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org