In both the Hebrew and the Greek concepts of peace, the idea goes far beyond the absence of war or violent conflict.
Shalom includes the ideas of health, friendship, safety, prosperity and rest. The holiness of Shalom is wholeness. Similarly, the Greek word eirene includes the ideas of quietness, rest, prosperity, happiness, harmony, and to set at one again. Eirene is also the Greek goddess of peace whose sisters are Eunomia (order) and Dik? (justice.)
September 21 is the United Nations' International Day of Peace and Global Ceasefire. It is a day that the world sets aside for ordinary people to demonstrate intentional acts of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building.
On Wednesday -- at noon in every time zone -- people will pause for a minute of silence to commemorate peace and the vision and hope for world peace. On Peace Day, and every other day for that matter, it is important that we recall the multiple meanings of peace.
Peace comes into our individual souls when we reconnect with God, with Divine Love that is our Creator. We can do this when we follow the imperative found in Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God." All of us should carve out time from our busy schedules daily to be still before God. It is the meditative discipline of listening.
So often our prayers are a rehashing of everything that is wrong with our lives. We talk to God about the things that worry us. There is a time for this. Yet, there is also a time to listen.
There is a time to be still and feel the presence of God within us, surrounding us and beyond us. It is a blessed quietness that reminds us to know the presence of Holy Spirit, God the Sustainer.
Peace also comes when we remember that we stand at the intersection between a vertical relationship with God the Creator and a horizontal relationship with God the Redeemer.
For Christians, Jesus is the human incarnation of Divine Love, and we are one with Jesus. And the world will know that we are Christians by our love.
It is not possible to love God without also loving our fellow human beings, nature and all of creation. Peace comes when we love the other -- even and especially those we perceive as enemy or other -- as we love ourselves.
The important thing to remember here is that we ought to love ourselves, and far too many of us do not. Self love means that we remember to take care of ourselves. We discipline ourselves to lead healthy lives. This means exercise, rest and proper nutrition. It means friendship and commensality. It means living in harmony with humanity and the natural world.
International Peace Day is a day to remind us that peace is a way of life. Peace requires discipline, and one of the most difficult disciplines is to discipline our tongues.
Peace Day is a day of global ceasefire. When we consider a ceasefire, we usually envision an agreement between two sides in a violent conflict not to attack each other for a period.
I say a ceasefire can and also ought to mean that we will hold our peace, hold our tongues, intentionally muzzle ourselves, become mute in a discussion that can much too easily descend into verbal warfare. Often, when we are quiet in the face of verbal attack, the argument does not escalate into something that all parties involved will regret.
Peace Day is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to peace. It is a day to remember that we serve the Prince of Peace.
To see some of the activities people are planning for Peace Day click HERE.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.