…and before everyone leaps up, glasses and coffee mugs in hands, and shouts ‘To Peace’ back to me, I’m not offering a toast here! I’m thinking that it’s about time we made ‘peace’ a verb.
Henri Nouwens had this to say :
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”
I read this as saying that all those things – smiles, healing, letting go of anger and resentment, forgiving and loving are all wrapped up in some way in that first phrase ‘Did I offer peace today’.
We often define peace in terms of the absence of other things. Peace is what we have when we don’t have war or conflict; it’s when there is no noise or tumult, when there is nothing to disturb us. Sure, we have ‘peace conferences’ designed to create peace, but even these are really about resolving the issues that lead to conflict.
The word ‘Shalom’ – a Jewish word – is often thought to mean peace, but actually has a deeper and richer meaning. According to Strong’s Biblical concordance,
“Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.”
Some of that fits with peace, but there’s an awful lot there besides!
When Jewish people wish each other ‘Shalom’ they are packing an awful lot of good stuff in to that single word. And it’s a word defined in things that are present, as well as things that are absent.
I think we need to start bringing some Shalom in to our own lives and the lives of people around us. We need to start ‘peacing’ – doing peace in our day to day lives.
For me, ‘peacing’ would be about the things from Nouwen’s quote above and the definition of Shalom. When we ‘peace’ we would be looking to bring love, healing, smiles and forgiveness. We’d be looking to carry out actions or say words that bring about a sense of wholeness and completeness, welfare and safety. We’d be wanting a sense of harmony and the absence of agitation or discord or conflict in relationships. And we’d be looking to do all we can to bring about a sense of peace and restfulness in a person’s life and relationships.
As a Christian, the start of the Holy Communion part of a service is that we all give one another ‘a sign of peace’, with words along the line of ‘Peace be with you’.
In Islam, the greeting “As-Salam-u-Alaikum” is used – (Peace be unto you”. This is pronounced as “us-saa-laam-muu-ah-lay-kum”, if you ever want to use it.
The world seems to get nastier and more spiteful and small minded with each passing day; perhaps we all need to start peacing – and if we can’t do it with words (after all, it might seem a bit formal to say ‘Peace be with you’ to the mail man) maybe we need to start doing it with actions.
When we meet people, speak with people, pass people by – carry in our hearts and minds an attitude of peace and shalom. Bear in mind whether we can give them any of the gifts listed above. And try to peace everyday.
After all, practice makes perfect, which is itself one of those traits of Shalom.