Words used in a biblical context often carry a different and fuller meaning than they carry in day-to-day conversation. One example of this difference is the word ‘peace’. When we use the word peace in English we generally think of it as the absence of conflict. Overcoming this shallow definition of the word is a necessary part of understanding the blessing of peace that God gives. The true meaning is not exhausted by an absence of conflict. For example, there are rarely any fistfights among patients in hospitals, yet one would be stretching things to call the atmosphere peaceful. There are no serious conflicts in cemeteries (physical, political or otherwise); still peace is not their primary characteristic. Peace in the biblical sense is to have all that is needed for a full and blessed life. Those Jesus speaks of in this passage are seeking the fullest manifestation of peace.
Scripture sees real peace as something that is truly found only in the presence of God. For this reason Paul says “Having been justified by faith we have peace with God”. The work of Christ is not simply to negate judgment; rather it is to allow for relationship between God and humanity that fulfills all need and desire. In Philippians, Paul follows this progression to its conclusion. By faith we gained peace with God. By committing all of life to Him through faith and in prayer we gain the peace of God. By focusing the mind on those things that are pleasing to Him, and thus living life in His steps, we gain intimacy with the God of Peace. By this progression we gain peace in the true meaning of the word. Peace, not easily taken away as the world gives it, but peace that will withstand the test of both the hospital and the cemetery. This is the peace of the inner world, through which we, though physically restricted, may yet within us taste the fruits of paradise.
Those who would be called sons of God must seek the peace of God in the God of peace, for our own lives and for those around us. We will be able to impart peace to others to the extent that peace reigns in our own hearts and souls; so the process begins first with us. Then we will be able to offer peace also to others. This requires humility, since we can never see ourselves as those who own and dispense the peace of God. It requires also courage, since peace is only absence of conflict when all necessary for blessed living is available and unhindered. We must commit ourselves to this peacemaking process through prayer and consideration, asking God to strengthen us in every moment, relationship and area of life, to eliminate that which destroys peace and to find in all things the presence of God. Then peace will be ours, and we will be recognizable as children of God.