What does the word peace mean to you? Does it include a personal perspective of your spiritual and emotional well-being? Is it an image of a family sitting around a dining table enjoying a meal together without any arguing or hard feelings? Does it indicate a global environment where countries are not at war with each other? I think it is all of that and much more.
When Jesus left this earth, he said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace be with you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus reminds us that he desires us to have a peace that can come only from a relationship with him. And his peace passes all understanding.
Do you have that kind of peace?
In the 22nd Psalm, we are encouraged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. If you know the history of the Middle East, you can appreciate what a big ask that is. The psalmist is on a pilgrimage to the spiritual center of his religion and his heart, and his hope are focused on finding that Jerusalem can be a place of peace in the troubled world of conquests and kingdoms. He is excited to go to the temple to worship, and proud of its fortifications and strength:
Psalm 122 (Common English Bible)
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let’s go to the Lord’s house!”
2 Now our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem is built like a city
joined together in unity.
4 That is where the tribes go up—
the Lord’s tribes!
It is the law for Israel
to give thanks there to the Lord’s name,
5 because the thrones of justice are there—
the thrones of the house of David!
The halls of justice were located in Jerusalem, as the Hebrew Law made its home within its walls. The people went to this beautiful city on the hill as the law required to pay their alms and tithes at the temple and revel in its beauty. It was a spiritual and emotional home for them.
6 Pray that Jerusalem has peace:
“Let those who love you have rest.
7 Let there be peace on your walls;
let there be rest on your fortifications.”
We might take a cue from this and pray for peace in our spiritual homes as well. Do you pray for your church? For your denomination? Is there peace in your pews, or does dissension live there? A pastor friend once said that church was like visiting the sausage factory … everybody loves to eat sausage, but you might not want to know what goes in it. Ever feel that way?
If that resonates with you today, take heart. Every institution made of people is bound to have conflict, differences of opinion, and the occasional (frequent) unpeaceful moment. But never mind all that. Where God is present is the only place to be. We are called to make the pilgrimage despite its flaws. Just remember to pray for peace and never cease to pray for your church’s good.
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.”
9 For the sake of the Lord our God’s house
I will pray for your good.
Let There Be Peace on Earth by Michelle Robertson