“The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
The third fruit of the Spirit is Eirene—peace. Eirene is the Greek and New Testament continuation of the Hebrew concept and understanding of Shalom. The word ‘peace’ (shalom/eirene) appears 429 times in the Bible and is most often referred to as a state of inner satisfaction, contentment, serenity, and fulfillment. This condition of peace, however, is intimately connected to God and ultimately contingent upon a harmonious and integrated relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
We are taught that we cannot live at peace alone or in isolation from God or others. St. James tells us, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:16-18). We can find peace, be at peace, hope for peace, all because God has made peace with us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We are to love one another as Christ has loved us (see 1 John 4:19) and to find peace in the process in the loving. This is only possible through a tangible and concrete relationship with the Cross. I say the Cross because, as earthly beings, we need symbols, and God, out of love, does not disappoint. We connect Jesus with the Cross so thoroughly that instead of trying to delineate the two, perhaps we should embrace the specific symbolism of the one as unique. Jesus is certainly more than the Cross, but the Cross is the symbol of all that Jesus did for us and an access point for us to peace.
Jesus promised in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Long-loved words assure us that through His Holy Spirit, we have His peace. To find this peace in our own spiritual journey we must embrace the Cross of sacrifice and self-abandonment. We must embrace our need to give up ourselves to God and one another, to sacrifice and be a sacrifice, in order to be at peace. You have already done this at times in your life—given yourself, your help, your heart, so thoroughly that you were emptied. And yet, the memory is not one of loss; it is one of peace and connection. The Cross calls to us as the symbol of Christ-likeness and the confirmation of God’s peace.
“Till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.” (Isaiah 32:15-20)
This is the peace Jesus Christ brings. Christ was born to bring the peace of God. Christ has poured Himself out for us on the Cross on our behalf. He has paid the price for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. He has restored peace between God and God’s beloved people; He has restored peace between our neighbors and us, and God is restoring peace in His creation. God is restoring all things to their peaceful intentions; God is restoring peace.
Pick up your cross, live the sacrificial life, embrace the Holy Spirit and know peace more and more—through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Through the Cross,
Father Bill Burk†