Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.
Bible reading Psalm 120:1-7.
As I am writing this there are peace talks happening in both Sudan and South Sudan. I pray they will soon succeed where others have tragically failed. The Transitional Military Council in Khartoum are meeting the Forces for Freedom and Change at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum, with mediation from Ethiopia’s Mahmoud Dirir and the African Union’s Mohamed El Hacen Lebbat, both on hand to help. Various committees are working on a constitutional declaration followed by forming a Sovereign Council.
In the South the Juba government and especially the holdout rebel group National Salvation Front are busy denying reports of reconciliation attempts made by the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan Internal Province of Central Equatoria State. ‘The Church is morally welcome, but the proper channels for negotiation must be worked through’, they say.
One of the toughest assignments
Peacemaking is a very, very difficult task. The independent modern histories of Sudan since 1st January 1956, and South Sudan since 9th July 2011, both witness to this. I am sure many readers identify with the writer of Psalm 120:6-7: “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war”.
Our Lord Jesus wants us to be peacemakers
Yet, our Lord Jesus still looks for every one of His followers to be a peacemaker. The word He used in His Sermon on the Mount eirenopoios comes from two smaller words, eirene simply meaning peace, and poieo the verb to make. To make peace. It sounds so straightforwardly easy!
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”, Matthew 5:9.
‘Peace’ in the New Testament describes various connections, dealings and feelings that exist between people and people-groups. It describes both positively and negatively:
1. ‘harmonious relationships between people’ Matthew 10:34; compare with
2. ‘harmonious relationships between nations’ Luke 14:32; Acts 12:20; compare with Revelation 6:4;
3. ‘friendliness’ Acts 15:33; 1 Corinthians 16:11; Hebrews 11:31;
4. ‘freedom from molestation’ Luke 11:21; 19:42; Acts 9:31;
5. ‘order, in the State and in the churches’ Acts 24:2; 1 Corinthians 14:33;
6. ‘the harmonised relationships between God and people, accomplished through the gospel’ Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:17;
7. ‘the sense of rest and contentment consequent to number 6’ Matthew 10:13; Mark 5:34; Luke 1:79; 2:29; John 14:27; Romans 1:7; 3:17; 5:1; 8:6. 
The God of peace gives peace
Other words for ‘peace’ used in some Bible translations include, rest, quietness and contentment. Eirēnē carries wide significance including ideas and beliefs of completeness, success, fulfilment, wholeness, harmony, security and wellbeing. The traditional greetings Hebrew shalom and Arabic salaam both carry word meanings of ‘wholeness, completeness, fulness and finished’. Paul uses the title “the God of peace” in Romans 15:33; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to describe God Himself as One Who is and Who gives completeness and wholeness.
Our Psalmist who wrote 120 knew opposition when he tried to be a peacemaker. He was for peace, but many around him always seemed to want to cause trouble. It appeared to be in their personal interests to keep disturbances going.
In peace negotiating specific words and their meanings are very important. The Psalmist recognises the hurt and distress he had felt by being lied to and being deceived, vs1-2. Frequently different factions at peace talks understand or mean different things even though exactly the same words are being used. It’s much more serious, but it can be likened to the old joke about a boss giving a reference to an employee who was moving on to another job. He wrote to the prospective new boss, “You will be lucky if you can get this fellow to work for you” – words which can be understood at least two entirely different ways, each meaning the opposite of the other! In peacemaking all people can read the words on the paper, but precisely what are they meant to mean?
Have the right people there
The people present or represented at the talks are also crucial. Often we hear complaints like ‘there is nobody there representing this group or that viewpoint’. Here is where God has a distinct advantage. Because He knows everything and nothing is hidden from His eyes or slips from His memory, His perception and His judgement are always 100% just and righteous, turning out lovingly good and for the benefit of everyone from His creation who is involved. God’s character governs all His attitudes and His actions, which is why it is always worth studying and meditating on the character and nature of Who God is. I personally think the character of the people involved in any peacemaking will largely determine the outcome of those talks. Trusting on every side is fundamental. If there are people you find you cannot trust ask God to help you. Each individual person must be a person of integrity – honest, honourable and firm in moral principles. At the right time God will reveal and judge those who do not meet His standards in this regard, Psalm 120:3-5. This thought may act as encouragement to us to wait on God for His time. It may also cause us to examine our own hearts and lives to ensure He can be with us rather than against us.
In our calling to be peacemakers Paul tells us:
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” Romans 12:16-20.
If it is possible …
This phrase from verse 18 is our challenge, “If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone”. Our Lord Jesus, on His way to be crucified on Calvary’s cross, showed us how to sacrifice ourselves in order to win others. From the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, Luke 23:34. The early Christian disciple Stephen is recorded praying similarly at his own martyrdom, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit … Lord, do not hold this sin against them” Acts 7:59-60.
Both our Lord Jesus and Stephen teach us by example to be more concerned about the eternal destiny of ‘our opponents or our enemies’ than about the personal consequences for ourselves here on earth.
“We often face hostility. Though we know in Christ the way of peace, peace with God and inner peace, we may face strife in the world, perhaps even opposition to our Christian faith from family or close friends (see Matthew 10:34-39)”.
Peacemaking may be required internationally, nationally, intertribally, interfamily, within a single family or even between one person and another. An appropriate prayer to pray is
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24:
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One Who calls you is faithful, and He will do it”, (italics mine).
With whom do you need to seek peace right now? Please do it.
A peace better than any peace the world gives
One of the first blessings our Lord Jesus promised the disciples He was leaving on their own to face their world was “peace”. John chapters 13-17 is called The Upper Room discourse, where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, 13:1-17; predicts His betrayal by the traitor Judas Iscariot, 13:18-30; predicts impetuous Peter’s denial of discipleship, 13:31-38. He comforts His followers with the promise of a heavenly home and the only God-given Guide and Saviour Who can take them there, 14:1-14. He promises One like Himself, the Holy Spirit, to enable and empower them to live as Christians, 14:15-31.
Before going on to His teaching about the True Vine, 15:1-17; predicting intense persecution for disciples, 15:18-25; explaining how the Holy Spirit will become their strength and supplied sustenance, 15:26-16:15; looking to glory in His own sufferings, 16:16-17:5; and praying for His somewhat mystified disciples, including praying for you and me, 17:6-26; our Lord Jesus gave this almost incredible pledge to us all. It is recorded in the heart of The Upper Room discourse and we must transpose it into the heart of every aspect of our Christian discipleship.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”, John 14:27.
Every true Christian obediently living in step with their Lord Jesus Christ, has peace with God through Him as their Saviour, Romans 5:1. This peace is not a tentative truce. War with God is completely over for us. No negotiations or peacekeeping forces are needed. Since this is a true peace relationship between us and our God should we not make it so between us and every other human being we are living alongside? Peace with all people, because they are all made in God’s image just as we are? As our Lord Jesus said, this peace is very different from any worldly peace. It is not the result of compromise but arises from compassion. It does not need policing or enforcing because God grows it in the good soil and willing hearts of Christianly discipled lives. Men and women who live like Jesus do not fall out with other people even when they may disagree over certain issues. As we have seen, it is up to you and me to make it possible, Romans 12:18. Our Lord’s peace within us brings greater potential to our peacemaking.
People who pray and possess God’s mysterious peace
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”, Philippians 4:4-7.
From these final thoughts of Paul to the Philippians, written in the prison where he was because of his service of his Lord Jesus Christ, we discover that true Christian peacemakers are people who live:
focussing on God Himself, vs4
praying about everything, vs6, knowing that God is always the key person and prime mover
having wholesome, secure, peacefully quiet minds as they submit themselves to following the Holy Spirit’s promptings and always honour their Lord Jesus from their hearts.
Divine peace will hold you together even when your world is falling apart. This you can rely on. You may not be able to always hold on to God, but He will always hold on to you.
Speaking peace to an impossibly turbulent storm
I thank God that amidst my many bouts of illness and pain I can almost always get a good night’s sleep, sometimes with an extra hour or two in the afternoon too. One evening our Lord Jesus was out on the lake with a number of small boats when they were engulfed by “a furious storm”. Jesus was sleeping calmly while apparently all His disciples were resigned to drowning. When they desperately woke Him Jesus showed Himself to be the Creator and Sustainer of the world. He spoke peace to the storm:
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm”. Mark 4:39 in verses 35-41.
The word ‘quiet’ in the older English Bible translations is our word ‘peace’. If you were one of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, the unexpectedly sudden strong wind and heavy rain being angrily violent all around you, how would you have felt seeing Jesus peacefully sleeping with His head on a pillow in the boat? It would be easy to become cross and impatient with Him at His inactivity! Then imagine how would you feel as you watched and listened to Jesus?
The Message translation reads: “Awake now, He (Jesus) told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”” Mark 4:39-40.
Our Lord rebuked the storm for being a storm in the wrong place at the wrong time! More seriously, notice what did He rebuke His disciples for being? ‘Faithless cowards’, vs40. People who were unreliable, untrustworthy, easily frightened, avoiding dangerous or difficult situations. The English language uses two expressions, possibly derogatory to the animals involved – ‘chicken’ and ‘scaredy-cat’ . I wonder what the Jesus we call ‘our Lord’ would say of our attitude towards truly Christian peacemaking? Is He genuinely ‘Lord’ of our relationships with other Christians? Other families? Other tribes? Other communities? Other nations? Other religions? Others in authority and in government? You must answer to Him for yourself, as I must answer to Him for myself.
In this difficult area thank God as we put ourselves into God’s care He can be trusted to bring about miracles even greater than soothing and smoothing the Sea of Galilee. God will do it using our deliberately Christian and Christlike discipleship.
Traditional Christian blessings (notice their focal point)
“May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen”. Based from Philippians 4:7.
In the Old Testament God told Moses how the priests were to bless His people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace”, Numbers 6:24-26, (italics mine).
“Let the peace of Christ rule (meaning, let the peace of Christ be the referee or the umpire) in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace”, Colossians 3:15, (italics mine).
Between Jewish and Gentile background Christians God had worked His miracle, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. “For He (Christ) Himself is our peace, Who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility”, Ephesians 2:13-16, (italics mine). Unity in Christ overcame background divisions. May it do so today everywhere. Amen.
1. Look at the seven different usages of the word ‘peace’ I have listed near the start of this chapter, including reading the 24 Bible texts. Next, try to make a single compilation definition of ‘the meaning (note, singular) of the word peace in the New Testament’.
2. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”, Romans 12:18. Is it ever right to say ‘It is not possible. I give up’? Share things in the surrounding verses which give encouragements to keep on going, or reasons to give up.
3. What benefits can you see – have you experienced – in our Lord Jesus’ pledge to us, His followers?
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”, John 14:27. Try and define “God’s peace” and “this world’s peace” as you do, highlighting the differences.
4. How does “God’s peace” help you, or someone else, living in proximity to a physical war? Consider Philippians 4:4-7 among other Scriptures.
5. “Divine peace will hold you together even when your world is falling apart”. True or false? Why? Give personal examples where you are able to.
6. Choose one of the four Christian blessings I have written to close the chapter. Prepare and share a two minute explanation and application of your choice to the group. Watch your time on this! Don’t be a long-winded speaker.
 www.sudantribune.com 2nd August 2019. An agreement was initialled 4th August on TV.  www.sudantribune.com 1st August 2019.  Summary from W.E. Vine Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament words (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN) 1996.  See my Christian Theology in a Sudanese Context chapters 7-20, in print, or online at www.colinsalter.net  Cyril Okorocha, Nigeria, Africa Bible Commentary Psalms (Word Alive: Nairobi) 2006, page 726.  For example see King James Version; Revised Standard Version; English Standard Version; American Standard Version.