What is peace? First, let me introduce the word “peace” as it is written in the languages of prominent tribes (my birth origin) in Nigeria, West Africa.
Peace is udo in the Igbo language.
Peace is alaafia in the Yoruba language.
Peace is zaman lafiya in the Hausa language.
In Hebrew, peace is shalom. It means completeness, soundness and welfare. It comes from the root word shalam, which means to make amends or to make whole or complete.
Shalam can describe making restitution. If a man stole an ox or a sheep, the law required him to restore (shalam) what he had taken.
To have shalom means to be whole and complete, without any deficiency or lack.
Peace also refers to being spiritually and mentally whole, with the knowledge and understanding to keep secure in the face of conflict and hostility.
Picking up where we left off in our last column: Conflicts happen on different levels. We are to be brokers of peace in interpersonal conflicts.
Conflicts are the product of character flaws exhibited in selfish choices, biases, pride and ungodliness, causing a loss of peace.
“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Amid the conflict in our homes, churches and community at large, you are a broker of peace when you show how to work together instead of fight, contend and compete.
Then there is intrapersonal conflict. Until we deal with our inner conflicts, we cannot have peace. If we don’t have a large measure of peace, we can’t offer it. We can’t give what we don’t have.
Inner conflicts can be rooted in traumatic events, broken promises or other causes.
To become whole, a broker of God’s peace must first go to God. Jesus promises rest for the weary and the heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28).
The world has ideas on how to deal with inner conflicts, and it’s OK to get counseling. But deeper wholeness comes from going to God.
Brokers of peace learn to cast their cares on the Lord and seek God’s inner peace. They can relate to other people’s problems from their own experience, even if they haven’t resolved all of their own inner struggles.
To gain this kind of peace, we have to present Jesus into situations of conflict and learn from how he worked to resolve conflicts.
Jesus is a model of brokering peace. He brought the truth, the Word of God, and held all parties accountable to it.
When a woman caught in adultery was accused by men who were equally sinners, Jesus reminded them that all have fallen short of the glory of God. The result was a peaceful surrender on both sides. The accusers walked away convicted, and the accused received Jesus’ mercy and admonition not to sin again (John 8:1-11).
A broker of peace must do as Jesus did: listen thoughtfully and carefully, choosing words that build up and do not condemn, validating people’s worth and captivating their attention before pointing out areas to work on.
A broker creates a peaceful, inclusive environment. South African peacemaker Nelson Mandela said: “Peace is not just the absence of conflict. Peace creates an environment where all can flourish regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, class, caste or any other social markers of difference.”
Wholeness, completeness and peace may never happen without a right relationship with Christ Jesus. We are to be pure before God and live out the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-9).
Anthonia Onye is regional minister for Southern California for Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA.