What is the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper? First, we have to be clear about what peace is. My idea of peace is basically calm--like when I go to my favorite spot in the mountains or on the beach looking out at the clear blue water. Or I might think of peace as the absence of conflict.
When the Bible talks about peace, it uses the Hebrew word, “shalom”(“eiréné” in Greek). Even today, shalom is used to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Israel and for Jews all over the world. As it turns out, shalom has a much deeper meaning than my initial understanding of peace. Shalom paints a picture of unity and completeness. It is a reconciliation and redemption which ends up being something altogether new and complete.
This brings a fresh meaning to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus when he says, “For Christ himself has brought peace (eiréné) to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people, in his own body on the cross…”
In a time of war, a peacekeeper is often a soldier or diplomat who gets enemies to agree to a cease-fire. In this case, peace is kept when conflict is avoided. As long as each keeps to his own side, there won’t be any trouble. When we focus on peacekeeping, our goal is to keep us safe the way we are. Peacekeeping is successful when warring sides manage to tolerate each other even as they remain enemies.
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” As peacemakers, we don’t simply avoid conflict, we create shalom. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross didn’t just allow Jews and Gentiles to exist separately in relationship with God, it unified them as one--an entirely new people. A new kind of people were invented when Jesus brought us peace: Christians. We have been made complete together and there is no longer Jew or Gentile, male or female, master or slave--we have all been made children of God.
As Jesus’ Church in the Treasure Valley, with all its diverse backgrounds and influx of new people, are we working to be peacemakers or peacekeepers...or do we even think of shalom much at all outside of our own personal sense of wellbeing?