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Whether you've been to our church since the beginning or are new with us, you most likely have experienced the time in our service called Passing of the Peace. It's a time where we invite everyone to turn to one another and greet each other in the peace of Christ. Passing the peace is something that churches now and throughout history have done. Traditionally a leader will invite folks to turn to each other, and send a greeting with some form of the phrase "peace be with you" which typically garners the response, "and with you also."
If we look to Scripture, we can see the origins of it. The Apostle Paul greeted the church in the opening of many of his letters saying "peace be with you." (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2) and Jesus himself greeted his disciples saying "peace be with you." (Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 26). It seems like a nice gesture and something you almost expect to happen during a Sunday worship service. But is that all it is? Is it simply a quick, social minute? A time for us to say hello to a friend, use the bathroom or get water or drop off our kids at children's ministry? What does it truly mean to pass the peace of Christ?
The Hebrew word for peace (shalom) encompasses much more than simply the absence of conflict and hostility. It is about wholeness, order and rest. And ultimately it is about a restored relationship between God and humanity. A peace that Jesus gave his disciples, not as the world gives (John 14:27) but the peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7). A peace that says "I am full of joy and hope despite the circumstances of life and the chaos of the world around me" because I am right with the creator of all things, and he cares deeply for me. Is that what we're reminding each other of and passing to one another? The next time at church the time to pass the peace rolls around, I encourage you to really consider what it means for you to pass the peace of Christ. And if you have yet to experience the peace of Christ in your life, I encourage you to seek it out!