Peace. When you think about peace, what comes to mind? A place or experience without conflict, without turmoil or division? Perhaps you think of a state of being that means happiness and contentment, all our needs met? What does God say about peace?
We will continue with a thread in the previous message and the questions, “what does this Christmas season mean, what is the world hungry for, what is this peace the world longs for, and how do we find it?”
I would guess that most people reading this know that Jesus Christ came to earth, died on a cross, and we are told it was to “save the world.” And so, this is the reason we celebrate this season. How was it that He was going to save the world? In the previous post, I mentioned that it is through us that He intends to do this. Besides completing the work of walking and living on earth completely dependent on the Father and the Holy Spirit, to live out God’s will which Adam failed to do (thus showing us how we should live, empowering us to do so through the Holy Spirit Whom we receive when we commit to following Him); and besides defeating the devil’s work (1 John 3:8), He came as a peacemaker to reconcile all things to Himself (Col 1:19-20). So what is this Peace and how is it He is to do this “through us”?
The Bible word “peace” in the Hebrew is “Shalom”. Shalom is a big word with a lot of meaning! Peace is but one small part of it. “According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.” (quote from http://www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm).
Now bear in mind that before the fall of Adam and Eve (the first humans), “Shalom” was the experience of ALL creation – us, animals, and the earth itself. There was perfect harmony throughout all creation. No violence, no discord; relationships with each other, the earth, the animals, all worked in harmony and “Shalom” was the creations state of being. Mankind was placed over the creation, to care for and “guard” it in the Image of God.
After Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan that we “would not surely die”(Gen 3:4), we handed over our rule in the garden to Satan. God’s fullness is no longer present (Gen 3:22-23). “Shalom” has been broken. Satan now rules over the earth and the animal kingdom, and over us, if we do not resist him; when we choose the kingdom of darkness, rather than the Kingdom of Light, discord, death, hostility, enters the state of “Shalom”. Rather than harmony with all things working together, our experience of this life has become fragmented, broken, full of discord, violence, death. Instead of ruling in the Image of God, mankind now rules in the image of Satan; Satan is the destroyer – he lies, steals and destroys; his reign is that of an evil emperor lording it over others full of self serving ambition instead of the tranquil, peace filled, loving reign of our Abba Father.
But what does it mean to choose the kingdom of darkness over the Kingdom of Light? Without getting too deep into this and writing a book instead of an essay, basically it means recognizing that our Abba Father sent His Son Jesus to earth to live the life Adam couldn’t, thus destroying the devil’s work; dying on a cross destroying death in His resurrection; leaving with us the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) Who lives in us when we believe in Him, accept Him and pledge to follow Him (John 14:16) thus empowering us to live once again in “Shalom.”
Now obviously, given we all have free will, the world will not become a complete “garden of Shalom” again until Jesus returns to end this age, when the fullness (completeness) of His presence is once again known on earth. Many won’t accept Him. Many will be blinded by the kingdom of darkness and influences of demonic spiritual forces, though He wishes all would be saved (1 Tim 2:4).
In the meantime, those whom choose the Kingdom of Light, endeavor through Him to cultivate peace – “Shalom” – by choosing to acquire the attributes of Shalom; by allowing Christ to live in us and be our Source of all LIFE. Nothing else can fill us or satisfy like the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. In the midst of turmoil, with Jesus, we can find that “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7).
And what does this Shalom have to do with the animal kingdom? God’s original intention was that ALL creation should experience Shalom. It was our duty in the Garden of Eden to look after and guard the earth and the animal kingdom, and see to it that Shalom remained the state of being for ALL, including the animal kingdom. It was our very first “job description!” And, it still is our job description. Though Satan is the ruler of this world and the kingdom of darkness permeates all our experiences on earth now, we are all free to choose Jesus and the Kingdom of Light. When we do, we are all empowered to live on the earth, in as much as is possible today, as He truly intended us, and this means, we can extend Shalom to the animal kingdom. We take this on as our “job description” once again!
There are many ways we can do this:
- We can volunteer at animal shelters, get involved in animal rescue.
- We can adopt a few animals from shelters to give them forever loving homes.
- Join organizations that fight for animal welfare, sign petitions, fight for better laws in local, State, Federal governments by writing your legislators (see http://votersforanimals.org/ for MN).
- Always speak out against animal abuse. Watch for abuse, report it to the Police and to http://humanesocieties.net/ Minnesota Federated Humane Societies.
- Talk to church leaders and tell them how important animal welfare is and that you want your churches to take animal welfare seriously; tell them you want to see Creation Care Ministries started at your church, or volunteer to do this.
- We can learn about what is happening to the earth and the animal kingdom through industry, educate others about these facts. We can learn about how our culture and society view animals, develop a Kingdom view of animals instead, one where we recognize their value to their Creator, and do everything in our power to Honor Him in how we live, so as to respect the Creator and all He has made.
- We can become conscientious shoppers, buy less, buy only man made materials, watch how much packaged items we buy and instead buy un-packaged, in bulk items.
- We can eat lower on the food chain, eat more vegan and vegetarian entrees, or adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet altogether. We can become frugal. If meat is to continue to be on the menu, one can interview a local farmer, see that the animals are raised and slaughtered humanely, and buy from them (this would include all animal products – meat, eggs, dairy).
These are but some of ways one can engage in developing a life-style of living Kingdom values out in our lives when it comes to caring for creation.
One day, He is going to return again, to “finish the work He has started.” (Phil 1:6) One day, we will ALL live together in Shalom again. Personally, I long for that day when: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isa 11:6-9
Woodland Hills Church, Greg Boyd, speaking Pastor, Sermon on Peace 12/22/13: