by Frank Seekins
Editor’s Note: Dr. Frank Seekin’s has been a good friend to PPF for more than 15 years. He’s traveled to Sudan with us and counseled pastors and evangelists on ministering to congregations impacted by trauma. Here, he shares with us the second of a multi-part series on how we can all experience victory over shame and trauma.
Decades of war have destroyed much of Sudan and South Sudan.
There is an Africa proverb that says, “When elephants fight, the grass is trampled.”
Why do nations destroy most of what they have built over and over again? I think the answer is found in our very words for “peace.”
Peace, Pax, εἰρήνη or שָׁלוֹם
i-ráy-nay or Shalom
In John 14:27 Jesus tells us that…
My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
In this verse we are offered a different type of peace. It is not the type of peace that most of the world is pursuing; i.e., a peace that never lasts.
A simple look at the different words for peace show us the difference between the world’s peace and God’s peace. First, let’s look at the English word and usage today.
Pax – Peace
“I win, I set the terms”
The English word “peace” comes from the Latin word pax. Pax means to make a treaty, to stop a war. Usually this treaty is dictated by the one who wins the war.
As a marriage counselor, I have seen hundreds of couples try to “come to terms” (i.e. to win the battle) in their marriage. The problem is that even if they win “peace” by defeating the other person, they destroy the relationship. This is the kind of peace where one side wins and the terms of the peace are in their favor. However tomorrow the other side may win. This, as many of us have experienced, is a false peace.
εἰρήνη i-ráy-nay – Peace (Strong’s # 1515)
The peace of belonging
The Greek word for peace is εἰρήνη i-ráy-nay and comes from the word εἴρω i-ro to join or to fasten. This is the peace or the tranquility that comes from being a part of the group. This is the peace where there are no ravages of war. This is the peace of harmony and concord. This is peace by belonging.
εἰρήνη i-ráy-nay is the word used in John 14 that describes both the peace that the world offers and the peace of Jesus. The difference is which group we join or belong to. We see the peace of belonging in Africa, where if you are part of the right tribe, you can experience peace. But what happens if you belong to the wrong tribe? There is no peace.
We also see this kind of “peace of belonging” in America where belonging to the wrong group often means that we are excluded and rejected. So by itself, the “peace of belonging” can be a dangerous and/or an illusory form of peace.
The different peace.
Belonging and being made whole
The peace that Jesus offers is for us to join Him— to join with God. We can belong to different tribes, different communities, different nations, but we belong to the same Kingdom. A key aspect to the peace that Jesus offers is seen in the Hebrew word for Peace.
שָׁלוֹם shalom – Peace
The Biblical Hebrew word for peace is שָׁלוֹם shalom (Strong’s # 7965). Shalom comes from the word שָׁלֵם shalem (Strong’s # 8003) which means to be whole and complete. The peace that Jesus brings is that we will not only belong but we are also made whole.
Bringing wholeness and peace.
Our English word holy means not only to be “set apart” but also to be whole and complete. The Hebrew word shalom or peace also means to be whole and complete. I believe that the Bible shows that both the Hebrew and the English are right. This is our goal in places like the war-torn Nuba mountains of Sudan. We want to bring wholeness. It is our call from Jesus.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
In Hebrew, a peacemaker is עֹשֶה שָׁלוֹם o-seh shalom or the one who makes and does shalom – wholeness.
When we give our time, money, and prayers to bless the persecuted, we contribute towards shalom, or wholeness: the complete form of peace. My prayer for us all is “Shalom.”