First Sunday

Children of God and Perfect Peace

by Kevin Vollrath

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 🌿 Psalm 32 🌿 Romans 5:12-19 🌿 Matthew 4:1-11

At first glance, the promise of “perfect peace” sounds like a hoax. In this world? Perfect peace? Perfect peace?

The doubling of the word “Shalom” (peace)– often translated as “perfect peace”– reminds me of other repetitions of that word: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Peace is a dirty word among many invested activists and marginalized people. “Peace” is the palatable, respectable, non-controversial sibling of edgy, angry, upturning justice. “Peace” is often co-opted to support status quo injustice, a human peace that does not and cannot last.

The only other mention of “peace” in this chapter comes in verse 12: “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us” (NRSV, emphasis added) or “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (ESV, emphasis added).

As I consider these verses, I am struck by the ambiguity of human agency in relation to peace. Some of the steps toward peace I’ve witnessed – if I dare call them that– that I’ve observed in Israel/Palestine– a home demolition’s delay, a separated family reunified, sworn enemies reconciled– and the often massive efforts undertaken and made up of seemingly very small and incremental actions. Are these “wins” toward peace God’s work or ours? This “peace” still seems far removed from shalom and justice.

In Isaiah 26, we read that it is ultimately God who establishes peace and God who has done all of our works of substance. It’s both troubling and encouraging to think that God is the one who makes peace. Troubling, because where is this promised peace? How are we, who claim to seek peace, actually contributing? What value do we add in bringing about solutions?

However, we can be encouraged to know that God’s perfect peace does not depend on human efforts. We can trust in God without wavering in the hope that this could contribute to not just any peace, but perfect peace, believing it is God’s work to ordain peace.

Perhaps this is why peacemakers will be called “Children of God”. (Matthew 5:9)

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