We know that the world’s original harmony was wrecked by sin. Like a Molotov cocktail thrown into a backyard garden, sin exploded the world that God had made, fracturing and dividing it. Instead of wholeness, brokenness; instead of health, illness; instead of friendship with God, alienation; instead of peace, strife.
Because we live in this fallen world that is yet to be fully redeemed, we can only glimpse the fullness of God’s peace. Scripture tells us, however, about God’s original intentions for the world he made. Consider the Hebrew word shalom, which is often translated “peace” in English translations of the Bible. While such a translation is accurate, comparing the word peace to the word shalom is like comparing a twig to a log or a boy to a man. When we think of peace, we tend to think of an inner sense of calm or an absence of conflict.
Shalom, however, means these things and more. It means “wellness,” “completeness,” “perfection,” “safety,” “soundness,” “success,” “wholeness,” “health,” and good relationships between people and nations. When there is shalom, everything is as it should be, our lives are as God meant them to be, our world is in the order he intended. To experience such peace in its fullness is to experience healing, satisfaction, prosperity. To be at peace is to be happy, fulfilled. It is a sign of the blessed life of the new creation. Peace has a whiff of paradise about it. It offers us a taste of the world to come.
Sometimes we sense this kind of peace as we worship with others, or as we pray quietly, or when forgiveness is asked for and received. Bent things are straightened. Hurt things are healed.
The Bible locates shalom in only one place — in God himself. We find such peace by living in harmony with him. As we do, our divisions, both external and internal, start to heal. We become fulfilled, complete. The harmony we have with him in turn produces harmony with others and harmony within ourselves. This is peace beyond our circumstances or feelings. This is shalom—life as it should be.